Thu, Mar 28, 2019 - Page 16 News List

UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers: Alvaro Morata’s brace lifts Spain to victory over Malta

AFP, TA’ QALI, Malta

Malta’s Jonathan Caruana, left, challenges Spain’s Alvaro Morata for the ball in their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier at the National Stadium in Ta’ Qali, Malta, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Alvaro Morata’s remarkable revival continued on Tuesday as he scored twice for Spain in a 2-0 victory over Malta.

After edging Norway 2-1 on Saturday, Morata’s double at the National Stadium gave Spain two wins from two in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying and the perfect start in Group F.

Luis Enrique’s side again showed the inability to convert possession into chances that clouded their early exit from last year’s FIFA World Cup.

However, Morata’s brace offers room for encouragement, the striker extending his return to form since he joined Atletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea in January.

He has five goals in six games, his best return since September 2017, and has strengthened his case for a position that has recently proved troublesome for Spain.

“The boss knows how happy I am to be here and I am grateful to him,” Morata said. “We want to qualify as soon as possible for the Euros, so it was important to win today.”

Malta are 182nd in FIFA’s world rankings, between Liechtenstein and Macau. Their win over the Faroe Islands last weekend was their first in 17 matches and only their second in almost four years.

Luis Enrique was absent for “personal reasons,” leaving his assistant, Robert Moreno, in charge on the touchline. There were unfamiliar faces on the pitch as well, as only three players — Sergio Ramos, Morata and Marco Asensio — retained their places in a much-changed lineup from the team that beat Norway.

Six of Spain’s starting 11 owned five caps or fewer, including Real Betis Balompie’s attacking midfielder Sergio Canales and Mario Hermoso, the 23-year-old RCD Espanyol defender linked with a summer move to Real Madrid.

Morata’s first, shortly after the half-hour, owed much to Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello, who failed to stop the forward’s scuffed finish after Hermoso’s clipped pass over the top.

Sergi Roberto’s cross almost gave Morata his second, only for the glancing header to flash wide, but he did not have long to wait. Jesus Navas delivered another ball to the back post in the 73rd minute and this time Morata made no mistake.

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