MADRID (AP) — Spain needed a passing blunder by Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer to secure a 1-0 win and keep the lead of its Nations League group yesterday.
Sommer got flustered by Spain’s pressure and passed the ball past his teammate and directly to Mikel Merino, who set up Real Sociedad clubmate Mikel Oyarzabal to score the game’s only goal in the 14th minute.
Where Sommer let his team down, David de Gea rescued Spain. Switzerland’s only scoring opportunity came before Oyarzabal’s goal. Silvan Widmer got free on a counterattack and his pass across the area reached fellow wing back Loris Benito arriving alone on the left side. De Gea, however, made a great one-handed save to parry Benito’s powerful strike.
Spain leads Group 4 with seven points. Germany has five points after beating Ukraine leaving Ukraine with three points. The Swiss are last with one point.
Teenage sensation Ansu Fati, who became Spain’s youngest goal-scorer at age 17 after making his international debut last month, was back in the starting 11 after not playing in a friendly against Portugal that ended 0-0 on Thursday.
Fati was mostly kept in check, like the rest of his teammates, and coach Luis Enrique substituted him for Adama Traore in the second half.
Traore, who made his international debut against Portugal, slalomed past three defenders on his first touch. His second possession ended with him putting in a dangerous cross. But other than those flashes by Traore, it was a match that might make Luis Enrique doubt about his choices as he tries to established a new generation of players capable of challenging for a major title.
Ferran Torres had a header that he directed to Sommer, who made the save. Oyarzabal wasted a good chance to score a second goal from close range when he deflected Jesus Navas’ cross wide from close. Merino shot high from the heart of the area. Luis Enrique, however, had only praise for his team.
“Our goal is not a mistake by their goalkeeper, it is merit of our pressure,” Luis Enrique said. “It was a success of my team that ended in a goal by Mikel.
But this is not about believing that this should be easy. It never is. “What we are trying to create here is a level of competition and for each player to think that they can play at their top level, and when they don’t, a teammate can.”
The team was also strong in defence. Pau Torres complemented Sergio Ramos in the centre of the backline and the team’s pressure never letting the Swiss get any rhythm in attack.
Oyarzabal was unable to travel for the friendly in Portugal because a diagnostic test for the virus showed antibodies. He rejoined the team in time for the match against Switzerland after another test resulted negative.
The game was played without fans at Real Madrid’s training stadium. Spain visits Ukraine on Wednesday.