Late Pique goal gives Spain victory – highlights & report

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Highlights: Spain 1-0 Czech Republic

Spain’s attempt to win a record third European Championship in a row began with a last-gasp victory over the Czech Republic.

Gerard Pique headed in a late Andres Iniesta cross, finally breaking the resistance of their stubborn opponents.

Alvaro Morata, Jordi Alba and David Silva had earlier efforts saved as the holders lacked a cutting edge.

Spain had also survived a scare when Cesc Fabregas hooked a Theodor Gebre Selassie header off the goalline.

Vladimir Darida had a chance to equalise but Spain keeper David de Gea, who started the game after a build-up dominated by allegations against him in the Spanish press, blocked his volley from 10 yards.

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Gerard Pique scores the winner for Spain

Spanish patience pays off

There might have been a few Spanish nerves after the team’s exit at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and loss to 137th-ranked Georgia in their final warm-up game before Euro 2016.

Spain’s goalscoring threat in attack was a worry and any anxiety would not have been helped during a first half in which La Roja had 74% possession and made 378 passes but still failed to engineer a breakthrough.

Morata led the Spanish attack with support from Silva and Nolito, and they were comfortably contained by a disciplined and organised defence.

Spain increased their urgency after the break but it was a similar story as they failed to translate their dominance into goals. Silva’s chipped ball put Alba through on goal but the left-back’s control let him down, while Silva cut inside and sent a left-foot shot wide.

When substitute Aritz Aduriz put an acrobatic overhead kick wide, it looked like being a frustrating start for Vicente del Bosque’s side until centre-back Pique broke the deadlock in the 87th minute.

“We created a lot of chances – we hope finishing will not be a problem,” said Del Bosque. “We had the game completely under control and that’s the most important thing.”

The average position of Spain (left) show how far up the pitch they played as Czech rep sat back<!–

The average position of Spain’s players (left) show how far up the pitch they played as their opponents sat back

Czech Republic fail with ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy

Pavel Vrba’s side had won just one of their past six matches and came into the tournament having conceded 14 goals in qualifying – the most of any team at Euro 2016.

They were happy to sit back and try to catch out the holders on the counter-attack or from a set-piece.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech’s impressive saves from Morata, Alba and Silva, as well as resilient defending, kept them on level terms and gave them hope of holding out.

Gebre Selassie’s near miss against the run of play almost gave them a lead to defend but ultimately the Czechs failed to keep Spain at bay and have now kept just one clean sheet in 23 games.

Man of the match – Andres Iniesta

Andres Iniesta made more passes (77) in the opposition half than any player and provided the cross for the winner<!–

Iniesta made more passes (77) in the opposition half than any player and provided the cross for the winner

What they said:

Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta: “There’s not a single solution to breaking down these teams. You have to keep pressing forward until you get what you want. The goal came the way it came – it just takes patience.”

Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba: “It’s disappointing to concede a goal so late. We could have scored ourselves, which doesn’t often happen against Spain. We played at our maximum level and it is a shame not to get at least a point.”

‘Boring’ Spain

BBC pundit Robbie Savage on BBC Radio 5 live: “This Spain team are lovely to watch but at times a bit dull and boring – even the fans were just sitting there expecting them to get a goal.”

The stats you need to know

  • Spain are now unbeaten in their past 13 Euro finals games, since a 1-0 loss to Portugal in 2004.
  • Spain have not conceded in their past 600 minutes at the European Championship, the longest run in the history of the tournament.
  • Goalkeeper Petr Cech made more passes in this game than any other Czech Republic player (36).

What next?

Czech Republic play Croatia on Friday, 17 June at 17:00 BST in Saint-Etienne, while Spain’s next game is against Turkey at 20:00 BST on the same day in Nice.

Live Text

Match ends, Spain 1, Czech Republic 0.

Second Half ends, Spain 1, Czech Republic 0.

Attempt missed. Jaroslav Plasil (Czech Republic) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.

Attempt saved. Vladimir Darida (Czech Republic) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Ladislav Krejci.

Aduriz (Spain) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Tomas Sivok (Czech Republic).

Foul by Aduriz (Spain).

Roman Hubnik (Czech Republic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Czech Republic. David Pavelka replaces Tomas Rosicky.

Goal! Spain 1, Czech Republic 0. Gerard Piqué (Spain) header from very close range to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Andrés Iniesta with a cross.

Substitution, Czech Republic. Josef Sural replaces Theodor Gebre Selassie.

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Tomas Rosicky.

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Pavel Kaderábek.

Jordi Alba (Spain) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Theodor Gebre Selassie (Czech Republic).

Substitution, Spain. Pedro replaces Nolito.

Attempt missed. Aduriz (Spain) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Sergio Ramos with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Vladimir Darida.

Juanfran (Spain) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Ladislav Krejci (Czech Republic).

Offside, Spain. Juanfran tries a through ball, but Aduriz is caught offside.

Substitution, Czech Republic. David Lafata replaces Tomas Necid.

Foul by Sergio Ramos (Spain).

Tomas Necid (Czech Republic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. David Silva (Spain) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Andrés Iniesta.

Attempt blocked. David Silva (Spain) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Thiago Alcántara.

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Tomas Sivok.

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Roman Hubnik.

Substitution, Spain. Thiago Alcántara replaces Cesc Fàbregas.

Foul by Nolito (Spain).

Pavel Kaderábek (Czech Republic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Czech Republic. Conceded by Sergio Ramos.

Substitution, Spain. Aduriz replaces Álvaro Morata.

David Limbersky (Czech Republic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

David Silva (Spain) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by David Limbersky (Czech Republic).

Attempt saved. Andrés Iniesta (Spain) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Sergio Ramos.

Offside, Czech Republic. Vladimir Darida tries a through ball, but Ladislav Krejci is caught offside.

Sergio Ramos (Spain) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Theodor Gebre Selassie (Czech Republic).

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