Spain made sure of winning Group F of the European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2020 as they scored four goals in ten minutes during the second half in a most comfortable 7-0 win over Malta at the Nuevo Estadio Ramón de Carranza in Cádiz on Friday.
Despite conceding two goals during the first half, the team defended well but once Spain managed to score twice in a minute, just past the hour, the Maltese collapsed with the hosts scoring another two goals in a few minutes’ time, adding another late in the game. This was the worst defeat for Malta in fifteen years and hopefully one which the team immediately forgets as they host Norway on Monday.
Malta coach Ray Farrugia handed Floriana duo Jurgen Pisani and Brandon Paiber their debut as he opted for a 5-4-1 formation with Jonathan Caruana, Andrei Agius and Zach Muscat at the back with Juan Corbalan and Pisani on the flanks; in midfield Dunstan Vella and Rowen Muscat were employed in the middle with Brandon Paiber on the left and Joseph Mbong on the right with Kyrian Nwoko as sole striker.
In fact, Malta had four changes from the team which lost to the Faroe Islands as Steve Borg was ruled out through suspension and was replaced with Jonathan Caruana while Paul Fenech, Jake Grech and Michael Mifsud made way for Pisani, Paiber and the returning Juan Corbalan. However just past the half-hour, Corbalan sustained an injury and had to leave the pitch, being replaced by Karl Micallef.
The hosts held the initiative right from the start but the Maltese defended well but on the 16th minute, Spain went close to taking the lead when off a cross by Pablo Sarabia from the left, Jurgen Pisani headed the ball down with Juan Bernat testing Bonello from a central position inside the area.
Six minutes later, Spain managed to take the lead. Alvaro Morata advanced into the area from the right only to have his close-range effort blocked by Bonello into a corner. From the resulting a corner, there was a clearance but Rodri headed the ball down for Alvaro Morata who slotted the ball past the Malta goalkeeper.
On the 27th minute, Gerard Moreno hit the ball past Bonello from a close angle after the Malta custodian performed a difficult save bu the goal was disallowed for an offside.
Five minutes from the end of the first half, Spain doubled the score when Jesus Navas served Gerard Moreno who sent Santi Cazorla through and the Villareal midfielder’s low shot hit the foot of the upright before ending at the back of the net.
Spain maintained the pressure and seven minutes in the second half, Santi Cazorla’s low effort was deflected by Zach Muscat. Five minutes later, Paco Alcacer tried to lob the ball over Bonello who managed to tip the ball and Pablo Sarabia’s first-time effort off the rebound was cleared into safety by Caruana.
But that was the prelude for two quick-fire goals for Spain as on the 62nd minute, they scored the third goal when off a corner from the left, Paco Alcacer headed the ball towards goal with substitute Pau Torres chesting the ball down into the net.
Hardly a minute later, Pablo Sarabia scored the fourth goal when he exchanged the ball with Gerard Moreno on the right, beating Bonello with a fine rising shot in the top left corner.
Substitute Dani Olmo marked his debut with a goal when Thioago Alcantara sent him through inside the area and he rounded the goalkeeper before placing the ball at the back of the net.
The Maltese were now demoralised and on the 71st minute, off a cross by Rodri from the right, Juan Bernat served Gerard Moreno who hit home from close range for Spain’s sixth goal.
Jesus Navas scored the seventh goal on the 85th with a well-placed shot from outside the area which ended in the top left corner.
On the 90th, Paco Alcacer could have added another but his fierce shot from the left hit the upright.
SPAIN Pau Lopez, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Morata (65’ Dani Olmo), Thiago Alcantara, Pablo Sarabia, Juan Bernat, Sergio Ramos (60’ Pau Torres), Rodri, Gerard Moreno, Santi Cazorla (53’ Paco Alcacer), Jesus Navas.
MALTA Henry Bonello, Jonathan Caruana, Andrei Agius, Joseph Mbong, Kyrian Nwoko, Rowen Muscat (65’ Triston Caruana), Dunstan Vella, Brandon Paiber, Juan Corbalan (33’ Karl Micallef), Jurgen Pisani (75’ Jake Grech), Zach Muscat.
Referee: Viktor Kassai (HUN)
Assistant Referees: Gyorgy Ring, Vencel Toth (HUN)
Fourth Official: Tamas Bognar (HUN)