UNL: ALVARO MORATÁS LATE WINNER SENDS PORTUGAL PACKING FROM THE UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE
Alvaro Morata’s late strike snatched Spain a 1-0 Nations League victory over Portugal in Braga on Tuesday and sent them into the semi-finals.
La Roja needed to win to finish top of League A Group 2, but struggled on another difficult night for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists, until Morata’s 88th-minute breakthrough.
Spain have not been able to hit top form in the internationals leading up to the Qatar 2022 World Cup, but this hard-fought victory provides a welcome morale boost.
Portugal had the better of the game but Spain brightened in the final stages, with the introduction of several substitutes, including Nico Williams, who headed across goal for Morata to gleefully turn in at the back post.
“When we had to stand up, we did,” Morata told TVE. “If we had lost, it had to be giving everything we had on the pitch, and that’s what we did.
I’ll remember the attitude of the team, we fought until the end. And Nico Williams, in his second game for the national team, was key and I put it over the line.”
Spain will join Italy, Croatia and the Netherlands in the semis in June 2023, although attention now switches to the fast-approaching World Cup.
Luis Enrique made wholesale changes to the side that suffered Spain’s first home defeat since 2018 against Switzerland on Saturday, retaining only four starters.
Morata was brought in to lead the line, while the Asturian coach rotated his entire midfield trio.
Spain still dominated possession, as their gameplan demands, but to little effect as Portugal created the more dangerous openings in the first half.
Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon made a solid save to deny Ruben Neves and then a brilliant one to keep Liverpool striker Diogo Jota at bay.
Cristiano Ronaldo appealed for a penalty in a race for the ball with Simon but the referee spotted he went to ground without any contact and waved play on.