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Spain sink Croatia 5-3 in goal fest thriller to reach Euro 2020 quarterfinal

For the second match in a row, Spain scored five goals. The misfiring Morata was on song this time as Spain head into the quarterfinals of Euro 2020.

June 29, 2021 / 01:03 AM IST
Spain's Alvaro Morata, right, celebrates after scoring his team's fourth goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship round of 16 match between Croatia and Spain, at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday, June 28, 2021. (Wolfgang Rattay, Pool via AP)

Spain's Alvaro Morata, right, celebrates after scoring his team's fourth goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship round of 16 match between Croatia and Spain, at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday, June 28, 2021. (Wolfgang Rattay, Pool via AP)

It was the match of Euro 2020 so far. Spain found something extra to beat Croatia 5-3 in an eight-goal thriller that was decided in extra time. It was a wild afternoon in the Parken stadium in Copenhagen as the match left everyone exhausted – players and spectators alike. There was no moment of dullness as both Spain and Croatia gave a peach of a performance. The 5-3 score-line is the second highest in the history of the Euros behind the 5-4 score-line of the 1960 match were Yugoslavia beat France. Spain also became the first team in the history if the competition to score five goals in consecutive games.

It all started with a bizarre own goal from Spain in the first half. But they regrouped and were ahead by two goals towards the end of the second half when some resilient play from Croatia saw them level the match to take the game into extra time. Spain had let their two-goal lead slip away in the first 90 minutes, but a spectacular goal from Morata and moments later by Oyarzabal saw them restore their two-goal lead to take the score to 5-3 in extra-time. This time, they didn’t let it slip.

Spain was enjoying almost 80% of the possession in the opening twenty minutes and were creating plenty of chances, but it all turned in the blink of an eye when a horrendous error from Unai Simon saw Spain concede in the 20th minute without Croatia even attempting a shot on goal. Pedri sent a long back pass to Unai Simon, who makes a mess of it and could only watch the ball roll into how own goal.

Buoyed by the goal, Croatia pressed forward and were suddenly all over Spain. Spain held on and levelled in the thirty-eighth minute. Gaya’s shot was turned away by Livakovic, but it fell to Sarabia who smashed it into goal. In the 56th minute, Spain pulled ahead. Pedri and Torres combined with the latter’s cross finding Azpilicueta in the box, who headed it in. Croatia almost pulled level in the 67th minute when Gvardiol sent a belter on goal, but it was saved by Unai Simon.

Ferran Torres scored Spain’s third in the seventy-seventh minute. It all happened quickly. Gaya was brought down on the left side of the field near the half-line. He took the resultant free-kick quickly to find Ferran Torres on the right flank. He made a surging run forward, cut beyond Gvardiol and stroked the ball under the keeper. Spain were ahead by two!

But Croatia were not ready to lie down. With just five minutes to go in regular time, they pulled one back. Modric who was superb throughout the game opened up Croatia’s chance. He weaved his way through the Spanish defence and was on the right of goal with a sea of defenders and the goalkeeper around him. But he kept his composure and sent the ball in front of goal where Budmir’s shot was cleared off the line only to find Orsic, whose shot was also cleared by Unai Simon, but after it cleared the goal line. Seven minutes late it was Orsic again who made things happen for Croatia. He sent a spectacular cross into the box from the left flank where it was headed emphatically into the far corner by another substitute – Pasalic to send the Croatian fans wild. It was time for extra-time!

In the 92nd minute Orsic had yet another chance when he sent a curler at goal from the edge of the box but it went just over the bar. Unai Simon more than made up for his blunder in the first half. He stepped up to the task to deny Croatia in the 96th minute. It was Orsic again causing problems for Spain. He made a brilliant forward run down the left flank. His cross found Kramaric who sent a shot on goal, where Unai Simon somehow managed to block the shot with his left hand and leg. Barely a minute later, Spain almost found the back of the goal again. Dani Olmo made a spectacular run into the box from the left and sent a shot on goal, but it deflected off the heel of a Croatian defender.

Four minutes into extra-time it was Morata who made for his blunders in the games before. Dani Olmo sent a searching cross into the box from the right flank. Morata pulled away from his marker, controlled the ball beautifully and blasted a shot with his left foot into the roof of the net. Spain were ahead and the fans, who just a week ago were hurling abuses at Morata, were now roaring their support for the striker.

Spain’s fifth goal also came from a break of play. Kramaric sent a vicious low driven shot, but it was saved by Unai Simon. Spain broke on the counter right after that with Morata sending Dani Olmo down the field, who then sent a cross into the box to find Oyazarbal unmarked with plenty of space and he finished clinically to restore Spain’s two-goal lead.

Croatia refused to buckle under pressure. They attacked with venom up front but were denied time and again by a rejuvenated Spanish defence. Budimir almost scored Croatia’s fourth, but his shot was inches wide. Morata nearly added to Spain’s tally in the 115th minute, but his shot was turned away by Livakovic at the near post. Spain had one last shot on goal in the dying minutes of the match when Dano Olmo hit the post. That was the last of the eight-goal thriller. It didn’t go past the 1960 nine-goal record thriller between France and Yugoslavia which the latter won, but it was every bit entertaining. Spain will play the winner of the France-Switzerland match.

Neeraj Krishnan
first published: Jun 29, 2021 01:03 am