On an imperious sequence of 24 successive victories in UEFA European Championship qualification encounters on home soil dating all the back way to September 2003, Spain manager Luis de la Fuente – still without an array of injured players that included Pedri, Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio, José Gayà et al – could still name a formidable starting eleven.
Knowing a point would be enough to secure their participation in Germany next year, still with two matches left to play in Group A, Scotland manager Steve Clarke adopted a change in his formational approach for the footballing expedition to Seville, as the in-form duo of Scott McTominay and John McGinn lined-up alongside each other in a 4-5-1.
ESP: Simón, Carvajal, Le Normand, Laporte, Balde; Gavi, Rodri, Merino; Torres, Morata, Oyarzabal
SCO: Gunn, Porteous, Hendry, McKenna, Robertson, Hickey; McGregor, McGinn, McTominay, Christie; Dykes
Seeking to qualify for their eighth successive appearance at the UEFA European Championships, Spain flew out of the home dressing room almost immediately taking the lead from kick-off, as Ferran Torres could only fire his one-on-one effort wide of the mark with the prospect of hitting the back of the net at his mercy. Clearly on the front foot pursuing the game’s opening goal, the hosts again went close shortly after the quarter-mark as visiting goalkeeper Angus Gunn produced a fine save to deny Mikel Oyarzabal.
Despite chucking everything, including the kitchen sink at the Scottish goal, Spain were forced to trudge down the tunnel back into the home dressing still frustratingly on a level playing field, as Mikel Merino’s close-range rebound effort found its way past Gunn, but not the frame of the post, before Álvaro Morata had a goal ruled out for straying marginally offside in the build-up.
Surprisingly, Luis de la Fuente turned to his substitutes’ bench during the half-time interview as Fran García and Bryan Zaragoza replaced Alejandro Balde and Oyarzabal. However, it would be Scotland who thought they had silenced the Estadio de La Cartuja on the berth of the hour-mark as Scott McTominay unleashed a stunning free-kick from the edge of the penalty area into the top corner past Unai Simón. Nonetheless, VAR would come to the rescue of La Roja as the footballing gods recommended to referee Serdar Gözübüyük, via the availability of the on-pitch monitor, that an offside-positioned Jack Hendry had hindered Simón’s ability to make a potential save.
In somewhat controversial style, Spain broke the deadlock in the 74th minute, with the in-form Álvaro Morata continuing his fine vein of form for both club and country this season as the Atlético Madrid striker got ahead of his marker to head Sevilla’s own Jesús Navas’ enticing cross past Gunn for his 12th goal in 13 matches.Embed from Getty Images
To the further annoyance of the travelling supporters, second-half Spanish substitutes, Oihan Sancet and Joselu combined, allowing the latter to take advantage of an unfortunate slip from Aaron Hickey that left the former with the simple task of slotting past Gunn.
The victory brings Spain to within three points of Scotland at the summit of Group A ahead of their clash with third-placed Norway on Sunday evening. Meanwhile, Steve Clarke’s side remain without a victory on Spanish soil since June 1963.