LASPALMAS (Reuters) – Spain returned to winning ways after two straight defeats by overcoming Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-0 in a stale international friendly on Sunday as midfielder Brais Mendez came off the bench to score on his debut for the national team.
Spain had learnt several hours before kickoff that they had missed out on reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League due to England beating Croatia 2-1 in London.
They seemed affected by the news as they played with little spark or imagination until Mendez tapped in from close range to settle the game.
Having lost 3-2 away to Croatia on Thursday and to England by the same scoreline in October to leave their Nations League fate out of their own hands, coach Luis Enrique used the occasion to give a chance to his second string players.
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga came in for the much-criticised David de Gea and Espanyol defender Mario Hermoso made his international debut, while Isco wore the captain’s armband in his 35th appearance for Spain.
Spain dominated possession throughout the game but struggled to create decent chances, with Isco and Marco Asensio taking turns in the first period to try their luck with long range shots which rarely bothered Bosnia goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic.
Alvaro Morata missed a glorious chance to break the deadlock early in the second half when Sehic parried a shot from Asensio at his feet, but the Chelsea forward failed to properly strike the ball and missed the target.
Spain’s eventual breakthrough came from another rebound, when 21-year-old Mendez pounced first on a loose ball as Sehic failed to hold a ground shot from Isco.
The goal gave a much-needed lift to the crowd in Las Palmas and allowed Spain to at least round off what has been an eventful and difficult 2018 with a victory.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)