Alvaro Morata dedicated Spain’s 2-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Malta to coach Luis Enrique, who missed the match at the National Stadium – Ta’Qali for personal reasons.
Assistant Robert Moreno took charge of the team, which showed some nine changes from Saturday’s victory over Norway in Valencia.
Morata, on loan at Atletico Madrid from Chelsea, broke the deadlock in the 31st minute when he latched onto a chip from Mario Hermoso to slot a neat angled finish under the goalkeeper.
Malta, who had camped out in front of their own penalty area for long spells, were finally opened up again in the 73rd minute when Jesus Navas’ cross from the right was headed in by Morata.
Spain’s comfortable, if not comprehensive, victory sees them top of Group F, with maximum points from their opening two matches.
“Today we had more motivation to win for our coach. He deserves this,” Morata told reporters, as quoted by Spanish media outlet Marca. “We hope things go as well as possible for him.”
Moreno admitted the absence of Enrique, the former Barcelona coach in his first qualification campaign as La Roja boss, was tough for everyone involved.
“It’s the hardest day as a professional, it’s a shame, I hope everything goes well,” the Spain assistant coach said in a post-match press conference.
“It was not easy to enter the game, when things like this happen, they make the group stronger. We knew we had to do well for the national team and for Luis.”
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had come in for Manchester United’s David De Gea, while there were starts for Valencia defender Jose Luis Gaya, Atleti midfielder Saul Niguez and Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto.
Despite the changes, Spain eventually found their way past a resolute defensive display from the home side.
Moreno said: “It was what we expected; they shut up shop.
“Attacking such a compact team isn’t easy and the conditions of the game made things tougher. We created chances and it’s a shame not to have scored more.”
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