Player ratings as La Roja top Nations League group
Spain have secured back-to-back Nations League victories with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in Malaga on Sunday.
Luis Enrique’s men looked vulnerable at times against a physical Czech side, but controlled the game for long stretches and were deserved winners at La Rosaleda.
Spain dominated possession in the early stages but created very little and were caught napping at the back. Marcos Alonso was often guilty of giving the ball away cheaply, with Vaclav Cerny robbing him of possession and forcing Unai Simon into an extended stoppage after 18 minutes.
The Athletic Club goalkeeper came to Spain’s rescue again moments later when Cerny released Jan Kuchta on the break, and Simon denied the Czech striker with his feet.
But Spain scored with their first shot of the game through Carlos Soler. Koke’s neat ball over the top found Marco Asensio, and he in turn waited to pick Soler’s final run, firing at the near post by Ales Mandous.
Referee Cuneyt Cakir dismissed calls for a Spanish penalty shortly after the opener when Jaroslav Zeleny tripped Asensio, dismissing the hosts’ forceful appeals. Before VAR could even complete the routine check for a spot-kick, Soler fired from close range after being picked off again by a downed Asensio.
Simon, who spared La Roja’s blushes early on, escaped with a bad kick straight into Jakub Pesek’s path, his cross towards Kuchta being cut off by the Spanish stopper.
After the break Dani Carvajal thought he had done enough to face a simple through ball but was beaten by Pesek and was lucky his lob attempt landed on the roof of Simon’s net .
Substitute Alex Kral launched a long-range effort on goal as the visitors’ frustration grew and Simon had to cross his line and keep it clear, while Gavi was denied at the other end by Mandous.
Spain doubled their lead with fifteen minutes remaining. Gavi moved away from visiting defenders in retirement and found Dani Olmo, whose film found Ferran Torres. The deflected center of the Barcelona striker was captured by Pablo Sarabia.
Mandous had to leave his line quickly to deny Olmo after Tomas Soucek’s loose pass sent the RB Leipzig man away, while Sarabia’s search for a brace continued with an inaccurate curling effort.
La Roja had to settle for a two-goal win that takes them top of Group A2 after Portugal’s loss to Switzerland.
GK: Unai Simon – 7/10 – Saved Spain early on but was also prone to questionable kicks.
DD: Dani Carvajal – 5/10 – Like his team-mates, he sometimes struggled to allow the Czech Republic to aim for goal.
DC: Eric Garcia – 7/10 – Enrique has defended Garcia’s defense for the past few days. It was a better performance from the youngster.
DC: Inigo Martinez – 6/10 – Was the hero in the reverse match last week but struggled a bit more here.
LB: Marcos Alonso – 3/10 – Spain pride themselves on playing with flair, technique and precision. Alonso didn’t contribute to any of those things.
DM: Rodri – 8/10 – Effortlessly recycled possession. Easily won his midfield battle with Soucek.
WC: Carlos Soler – 9/10 – Always probed and asked about the Czech Republic. His races gave Spain a much-needed extra dimension.
WC: Koke – 6/10 – Was helpful when given acres of space to pass the ball.
RW: Marcos Asensio – 9/10 – He clearly enjoys playing under Enrique – only Jordi Alba has provided more assists for Spain since the 2018 World Cup.
FC: Alvaro Morata – 4/10 – Looked tidy when falling deep but didn’t threaten visitors at all.
LW: Dani Olmo – 7/10 – Pretty sloppy and useless to begin with, but at least he worked hard and wasn’t fazed by his mistakes.
SUB: Ferran Torres (59′, CF for Morata) – 7/10 – Picked up the ball on purpose and drifted in wide areas.
SUB: Gavi (59′, CM for Soler) – 9/10 – Brought great franchise to Spain’s possession. Ran without fear in the Czech Republic.
SUB: Pablo Sarabia (72′, AD for Asensio) – 8/10 – Came in, looked dangerous, scored. Work done.
SUB: Jordi Alba (79′, LB for Alonso) – N/A
SUB: Sergio Busquets (79′, DM for Koke) – N/A
GK: Ales Mandous – 4/10 – Didn’t inspire any confidence in his third appearance for the senior team.
DC: David Zima – 7/10 – Treated well with Olmo and Alonso.
DC: Jakub Brabec – 5/10 – Shut Morata out of the game with relative ease. Was in shock when forwards useful to Gavi, Torres and Sarabia were introduced.
CB: Vaclav Jemelka – 4/10 – I had to help Zeleny deal with Asensio, which was a difficult task.
MD: Vladimir Coufal – 6/10 – Ran the hard yards and pressed Alonso in several errors.
WC: Michael Sadilek – 5/10 – Was disciplined in his half hour on the pitch before being substituted through injury.
WC: Tomas Soucek – 4/10 – Should have liked to bulldoze his way into a team with poor physicality, but didn’t. His limited skills were exposed.
LM: Jaroslav Zeleny – 3/10 – A difficult night not to follow Asensio.
RF: Vaclav Cerny – 6/10 – Seemed dangerous when on the ball, but was also guilty of making poor decisions.
FC: Jan Kuchta – 5/10 – Consistently troubled Spain with his smart move, but didn’t receive enough service.
LF: Jakub Pesek – 4/10 – Little contributed to the attack of the Czech Republic.
SUB: Alex Kral (30′, CM for Sadilek) – 4/10 – It was easy to say that Kral a) didn’t play much for West Ham this season and b) didn’t deserve it.
SUB: Vaclav Jurecka (59′, for Kuchta) – 4/10 – Didn’t add much to the game.
SUB: Adam Hlozek (60′, RF for Cerny) – 4/10 – I found it difficult to get involved.
SUB: Stanislav Tecl (79′, MG for Pesek) – N/A
SUB: Lukas Kalvach (79′, LH for Zeleny) – N/A