Spain began to dispel the gloom of their disappointing World Cup defence by beating Macedonia 5-1 last night in their first Euro 2016 qualifying game.
Manchester City’s David Silva was the main inspiration for Vicente del Bosque’s side who always had too much class for a side ranked 76th in the world.
The game was only held at the 25,000-capacity Ciutat de Valencia but it proved to be a memorable night for Valencia striker Paco Alcacer, who marked his full debut with a goal, and Sergio Busquets – he got his first ever goal for La Roja.
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas was restored to the side in place of David de Gea after last week’s 1-0 friendly defeat to France in Paris but Chelsea’s Diego Costa missed out with a hamstring strain. In place of Costa upfront, Del Bosque opted for 21-year-old Alcacer.
Spain took the lead from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after Silva was brought down, Sergio Ramos waiting for goalkeeper Tome Pacovski to commit himself before cooly chipping into the middle of the goal.
Within a minute it was two, a well-worked move down the left ending up with the completely unmarked Alcacer sidefooting home from Juanfran’s pull-back.
However Macedonia were back in the game 11 minutes later when the Atletico Madrid right-back gave away a penalty for a trip on Adis Jahovic, Agim Ibraimi sending Casillas the wrong way.
Busquets restored Spain’s two-goal advantage on the stroke of half time, his shot from the edge of the area being deflected in. That did not diminish Busquets’ delight – it was his first goal for Spain on his 71st appearance.
The home side were by now well on top and added a fourth five minutes after the break when Silva was given the space to turn and find the far corner of the net.
Del Bosque’s team cruised through the second half and wrapped things up in injury time when Silva set up Pedro for a delightful chip over Pacovski to make it five.
Elsewhere in Group C, Luxembourg were denied a rare win by Stanislav Dragun’s equaliser for Belarus with 12 minutes to go, cancelling out Lars Gerson’s 42nd-minute strike for the home side. Ukraine were beaten 1-0 at home by Slovakia, Robert Mak getting the visitors’ goal.
There were few goals in the other games in England’s group. Lithuania could only win 2-0 at San Marino, both goals coming in the first half, while Estonia left it late to beat 10-man Slovenia, Ats Purje getting their winner with four minutes to go.
In Group G, Fabio Capello’s Russia eased to a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein, helped on their way by two own goals. Montenegro saw off Moldova 2-0, while an Erkan Zengin equaliser gave Sweden a useful 1-1 draw in Austria. Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his 100th appearance for Sweden but was largely quiet.Reuse content