TA’QALI, MALTA (Reuters) – Spain’s Alvaro Morata scored a goal in each half as they beat a highly defensive Malta side 2-0 away on Tuesday to move top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group with two wins out of two games.
Spain coach Luis Enrique was absent from the sidelines as he had to return home for family reasons, so his assistant Robert Moreno took charge of the game, making eight changes from the side that had beaten Norway 2-1 on Saturday.
Malta were happy to sit back on the edge of their area and defend for most of the game, but the visitors found a way through in the 31st minute when Morata latched onto a long ball and sent his shot squirming under goalkeeper Henry Bonello.
The Atletico Madrid striker sealed Spain’s victory with another goal in the 73rd, drifting free of his marker to comfortably head in a perfectly-weighted cross from substitute Jesus Navas.
While Spain struggled to play free-flowing football, they had 80 percent of possession and never looked like conceding against a Malta side who showed little ambition in attack and only mustered two shots on goal to Spain’s 23.
“The game went as we expected, they played very close to their area and attacking a team that sat back as much as they did is never easy,” said Spain assistant coach Moreno.
“We still managed to create chances and it’s a shame we weren’t able to score more.”
After two games Spain lead Group F with six points, while Sweden are second on four after drawing 3-3 away to Norway, who have one point. Malta are level on three points with third-placed Romania, while the pointless Faroe islands are bottom.
“What we wanted to do is qualify as soon as possible so it was vital to win today and we’ve picked up an important victory away from home,” said goalscorer Morata.
“Football has changed a lot in the last few years, now it’s very difficult to beat teams that sit back and defend for the whole game but we managed to win and we’re very happy.”
(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)