Lisbon, In a slightly underwhelming game that will do nothing for either side’s claims to be among the favourites in Qatar this winter, Spain managed to steal a 1-0 win at the death in Braga against Portugal to seal a place in the Nations League Final Four.
It was the hosts, though, that had the better of the first half and Cristiano Ronaldo came closest to the breakthrough, only to be denied by an excellent Unai Simon save from close range.
Bruno Fernandes also had the crowd on their feet, with half the ground convinced he’d scored a long-range effort, only to then realise it had hit the side netting.
Spain looked out of sorts for most of the game, a shadow of the team we know they can be. They dominated the ball but weren’t able to move it around or put together passing moves of any effectiveness, the Spanish MARCA newspaper reported.
Just as in the loss to Switzerland, however, the substitutes did seem to introduce a bit of liveliness and a sense of urgency at least.
Nico Williams of Athletic Club looked keen to impress and tested Diogo Costa a couple of times from distance.
Spain grew and began to control the game better as the game wore on and it was one of Luis Enrique’s subs who assisted the winner.
In the 88th minute, Dani Carvajal showed good awareness to cut inside from right back and send a cross in behind towards Williams at the back post.
The 20-year-old winger showed great composure and presence of mind to head the ball back across goal into the path of Alvaro Morata who was on hand to smash home.
Williams could have been expected to go for goal on what was just his second appearance for Spain, days after his debut, but the youngster made the right decision and Spain have won the group in large part, thanks to that.
The goal was enough and Spain saw the game out to claim their first win over the Portuguese on their own turf for 19 years.
The win sees Spain advance to the Final Four yet again and they will hope to go one better this time around after being beaten in last year’s final by France.
Source: Oman News Agency