Alvaro Morata double helps much-changed Spain ease past Malta

Alvaro Morata scored twice as a much-changed Spain side saw off Malta 2-0 at the National Stadium – Ta’ Qali to maintain a perfect start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

With Luis Enrique missing the match because of family reasons, assistant Robert Moreno took charge of the team, which showed some seven fresh faces from the side which had beaten Norway in Valencia on Saturday.

Morata, on loan at Atletico Madrid from Chelsea, broke the deadlock with a neat angled finish in the 31st minute.

The determined hosts were opened up again in the 73rd minute when Morata headed in a cross from Jesus Navas.

Spain’s comfortable victory saw them top of Group F, with maximum points from their opening two matches.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had come in for Manchester United’s David De Gea, while there were starts for Valencia defender Jose Luis Gaya, Atleti midfielder Saul Niguez and Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto.

Despite the new line-up, Malta, who beat the Faroe Islands in their opening match, looked set to be on the backfoot from the early exchanges as Sergio Ramos headed over following a free-kick.

Spain had to remain patient with their build-up, as Saul curled an effort wide in the 16th minute and then clipped another effort over shortly after.

The home side continued to sit deep, happy to stack players across the edge of their own penalty area.

Morata’s looping header was saved with the visitors threatened again before Spain finally made the breakthrough in the 31st minute.

Defender Mario Hermoso chipped a pass to find Morata in the left side of the box who took the ball on his thigh before slipping an angled drive under the goalkeeper.

As half-time approached, Marco Asensio sent a 20-yard free-kick over and Spain were soon back on the front foot following the restart.

Morata sent a free header wide in the 57th minute before Asensio’s angled drive was beaten away by Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello.

It was eventually 2-0 in the 73rd minute when Morata headed in a looping cross from the right by Jesus Navas.

Real Madrid defender Ramos saw a long-range effort parried by Bonello before the tempo dropped during the closing stages.

Real Betis midfielder Sergio Canales dragged a late effort wide as Spain closed out a comfortable Group F victory.

- Press Association

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