MX23RW : Friday, November 16 20:58:19

Live Commentary: Spain 2-2 Morocco - as it happened

Relive Sports Mole's coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia as Spain claim top spot in Group B courtesy of a 2-2 draw against Morocco.
Live Commentary: Spain 2-2 Morocco - as it happened
© Reuters

Spain took on Morocco in Group B of the 2018 World Cup at the Kaliningrad Stadium requiring a single point to guarantee progress into the knockout stages.

La Roja found themselves a goal behind when Khalid Boutaib put Morocco ahead after 14 minutes, before Isco responded five minutes later to bring the scores level.

It had looked like Morocco would steal a shock win when substitute Youssef En-Nesyri thumped a header home in the 81st minute, but more late drama saw Iago Aspas awarded a goal courtesy of VAR to hand Spain a last-gasp point and seal top spot in the group.

Relive all of the action with our minute-by-minute updates below.


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6.00pmEvening all and thanks for joining us as we bring you live coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia with Spain taking on Morocco in Group B. La Roja need a point here to seal progress from the group into the knockout stages, while Morocco already find themselves eliminated from the tournament with this final game still to be played.

6.01pmSPAIN STARTING XI: De Gea; Carvajal, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Thiago; Isco, Silva, Iniesta; Costa

6.01pmSPAIN SUBSTITUTES: Nacho, Saul, Koke, Rodrigo, Lucas Vasquez, Odriozola, Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Monreal, Aspas, Reina, Asensio

6.03pmMOROCCO STARTING XI: Kajoui; Hakimi, Da Costa, Saiss, Dirar; El Ahmadi, Boussoufa; Belhanda, N. Amrabat, Ziyach; Boutaib

6.03pmMOROCCO SUBSTITUTES: Bounou, Mendyl, Benatia, El Kaabi, Fajr, Harit, En-Nesyri, Bouhaddouz, S. Amrabat, Carcela,

6.05pmStand-in Spain coach Fernando Hierro is clearly taking no chances here tonight. Spain opt for a 4-2-3-1 with a forward line that's led by the in-form Diego Costa. The Atletico Madrid striker is to be supported by a creative three of Andres Iniesta, Isco and David Silva.

6.07pmLucas Vazquez is the man dropping out in just one change for Spain. Thiago comes into midfield and he will either sit deep alongside Sergio Busquets, or he could also move further forward with Silva likely dropping back to form a two-man holding pair if required. At the back, Dani Carvajal starts on the right and Jordi Alba on the left, leaving Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in the centre of defence. David de Gea is in goal.

6.09pmFor Morocco, Herve Renard and his men will be operating with the same formation as their opponents, leaving Khalid Boutaib up top with further creative berths taken up by Hakim Ziyech, Younes Belhanda and Nordin Amrabat.

6.11pmBoth Karim El Ahmadi and skipper Mbark Boussoufa have been charged with holding the centre of the pitch, while the back four is comprised of Nabil Dirar, Manuel da Costa, Romain Saiss and Real Madrid youngster Achraf Hakimi.

6.13pmSpain's tournament so far has offered glimmers of brilliance and also raised plenty of questions following a draw to Portugal and a victory over Iran. La Roja played some standout football against their Iberian rivals only to be undone by Cristiano Ronaldo's heroics. Spain played poorly against Iran but somehow managed to come away with all three points thanks to Costa's deflected effort.

6.15pmComing up against Morocco this evening, Hierro will see his Spanish charges qualify by picking up a point. They could still progress with a defeat but that would depend on Portugal beating Iran elsewhere tonight.

6.17pmResults a little earlier this afternoon mean that whoever wins Group B will be facing Group A winners Uruguay, while the runners-up in this berth will play hosts Russia in the next round of knockout fixtures.

6.19pmFacing Russia will certainly be a test given the monumental home support and some impressive showings in the hosts' first two games, but Spain and Portugal would fancy themselves to outwit Russia technically. Uruguay might pose a slightly more difficult challenge.

6.21pmOnce Spain break beyond the groups, they will likely fancy themselves to go deep given the experience in this squad. Last time out against Iran, Pique, Iniesta, Busquets, Silva and Ramos all provided the experience of at least 100 caps or more.

6.23pmThe departure of Julen Lopetegui just days before the country's first game against Portugal would have rocked just about any side in the world, although those monumental caps statistics indicate just how politically complex, but ultimately beneficial, having the likes of Pique, Ramos and Iniesta in the ranks can be.

6.25pmCosta has been impressive so far in the competition with his link-up play, industry and clinical finishing. The frontman has nine in nine games and is now only the third Spanish player to score three goals in the first two games of a World Cup. Fernando Torres did so in Germany in 2006 and Michel achieved the same feat at Italia '90.

Diego Costa celebrates getting the equaliser with David Silva during the World Cup group game between Portugal and Spain on June 15, 2018© Reuters


6.27pmComing up against Morocco essentially requiring to avoid a defeat to qualify, Spain find themselves in the midst of a 22-game unbeaten in all competitions, having notched 15 wins and seven draws on the bounce. La Roja have also scored in each of those contests too.

6.29pmFacing African nations, Spain have won three of their four World Cup matches, scoring 11 goals and never fewer than two in each of those games.

6.31pmNow aiming to book a place in the next stage, Spain know that they have managed to finish top of their group in three of the last four World Cups. The only slip-up came last time out in Brazil when they failed to move beyond the first round.

6.33pmThe omens certainly favour this Spanish side this evening. La Roja have capped off their final group game with a win in each of the last eight editions of the World Cup. That trend runs all the way back to 1986. Good luck, Morocco...

6.35pmHaving said that, a compact Iran produced a decent blueprint on how to frustrate Spain. La Roja were fortunate to pick up all three points against Carlos Queiroz and his men last time out. Highlights from that clash can be viewed below:


6.37pmMoving on to Morocco, Herve Renard and his men have had a difficult tournament without playing too badly. The African nation were undone by a late own goal against Iran, before giving Portugal a real test without coming away with the points that they perhaps deserved.

6.39pmThose frustrating results have left the Moroccans with little but pride to play for tonight having already been eliminated from the group with a game still to be played. It has not been the tournament befitting of a return from a 20-year absence, but this side have at least offered something of a test.

6.41pmA defeat tonight would actually see Morocco lose all of their group games at a World Cup for the first time since 1994. It's going to be a tough ask against an embattled Spanish side, but Renard's men will need to find some form of motivation to avoid being rolled over.

6.43pmIt is perhaps in attack where Morocco have suffered the most in recent tournaments. This side has actually registered more shots than all of their opponents in each of their last six World Cup losses.

6.45pmThe Moroccans will be hoping to get on the scoresheet in order to prevent Russia 2018 from becoming the only World Cup in which they have failed to score a goal in. The last time a team failed to score in all three of their group games came in 2010 when both Algeria and Honduras came up short in South Africa.

6.47pmMorocco have only collected wins in two of their last 15 World Cup matches. It is worth noting that those two wins arrived in their final group games in 1986 and 1998, though.

6.49pmDespite Morocco heading home without reaching the knockouts, young stopper Monir El Kajoui has insisted that his side have been able to take on a number of valuable lessons from the tournament:


6.51pmPREDICTION: Spain's starting XI suggests that Hierro is targeting nothing less than a win to give themselves the best chance of topping the group tonight. La Roja have quality in every department here and should the Spaniards learn their lessons from playing far too slowly against Iran, Hierro should be celebrating a crucial three points come the end of tonight. Morocco will be up for the fight as they aim to protect their pride, but Spain will have too much for them in Kaliningrad. I'm backing La Roja for a comfortable 2-0 win.

6.53pmThe nations have met twice competitively before and those fixtures came as part of a two-legged qualification play-off for the 1962 World Cup in Chile. Spain won both fixtures, picking up a 1-0 away victory before capping off the tie with a 3-2 win back home on Iberian soil.

6.55pmThe players are now emerging onto the pitch as we await the start of the national anthems. The game will be underway very shortly...

6.57pmBefore we get moving, here is a quick recap of the starting XIs this evening.

SPAIN STARTING XI: De Gea; Carvajal, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Thiago; Isco, Silva, Iniesta; Costa

MOROCCO STARTING XI: Kajoui; Hakimi, Da Costa, Saiss, Dirar; El Ahmadi, Boussoufa; Belhanda, N. Amrabat, Ziyach; Boutaib


1 minKICKOFF! Here we go then, Spain get things going from the off. Hierro's men are finally playing in their traditional red kit for the first time in this summer's tournament tonight.

2 minIt's an energetic opening from Morocco and Ziyech is in quick to rob Carvajal. Real youngster Hakimi makes progress down the left, but his ball into the box is a poor one and flies out for a goal kick.

3 minCosta's first contribution is to drop short and win a cheap free kick off centre-back da Costa. Spain take the set-piece short as they aim to take a good, healthy look at the Moroccan defence in the opening stages.

4 minCHANCE! Typical Spain. La Roja win the ball high up the pitch and the ball is quickly worked down the inside channel for Isco, who sees his cross towards the near post for Iniesta smothered by Moroccan stopper Mohamedi.

6 minSpain's first corner of the game gives Costa the chance to wreak some havoc in the box. The forward's movement towards the front post is positive, but Silva's delivery is wayward and Morocco head away at the back post.

8 minHandbags already between Ramos and Amrabat after a physical battle in the middle of the pitch. It's all a tad embarrassing. More industrious play sees Pique having to lunge in with two feet to win the ball off Boutaib, who is making a real meal of this. It's a high, reckless challenge, you might say, but Pique does win the ball and there's just a feather of a touch on his man. He might just have got away with one there, though.

10 minSpain are ticking now as Thiago drives a wonderful ball from the middle out for Isco on the left channel. The playmaker looks to slip in Alba on the overlap, but the pass is overhit and Morocco escape unscathed.

12 minCosta drags his marker across to the right to open up space for Silva to run in behind. The midfielder sets the ball back across the box, where Iniesta does not have the required height to get a headed finish away. La Roja are warming up nicely...

14 minGOAL! SPAIN 0-1 MOROCCO (KHALID BOUTAIB)

14 minMy word do we have a game on our hands in Kaliningrad. Iniesta and Ramos get in a whole heap of trouble just inside their own half, allowing frontman Boutaib to steal in and pinch away the ball. The forward gallops free and has just De Gea to beat, slotting low beyond the keeper with a cool finish to make it 1-0. Two of Spain's most experienced men got caught dawdling there.

16 minHierro looks on stunned at that defensive mishap... Spain had looked settled and were going about their work efficiently before that surprise opener.

18 minSpain push forward inside the Morocco half as Costa lays the ball back for Iniesta. The playmaker pulls wide to the left to get his speculative shot away, but it's always rising and soon clears the crossbar without troubling Mohamedi.

19 minGOAL! SPAIN 1-1 MOROCCO (ISCO)

19 minWell, that didn't take too long. It's down the left where Spain cause issues as Costa feeds Iniesta into the channel with a neat one-two. The playmaker rounds his man and cuts back inside to lay off a short pass for Isco, who picks his spot and rifles into the roof of the net from close range. A fantastic team goal to bring La Roja level.

21 minYELLOW CARD! First of the game and it goes against Morocco's El Ahmadi as he needlessly clatters into Busquets in the middle of the pitch.

23 minSpain have responded to the leveller by taking possessional control, just as you might expect. Moroccan have backed off deep inside their own half as shirts in red pour forward. Iniesta is at the heart of the move again and is able to win a corner on the left.

23 minCHANCE! The curling ball into the middle finds Pique leaping off the back of his marker, but the Barcelona defender can only get up to head down and comfortably into the arms of Mohamedi on his line.

24 minSHOT! Spain win the ball back in the middle and race away on the break with four versus four. Iniesta has to get his shot away only to see it blocked by da Costa.

25 minSAVE! Wow, this is a bit schoolboy from Spain at the back. Morocco take a very quick throw-in and it beats both Pique and Ramos to find Boutaib scampering through on goal again. The frontman is once more faced with De Gea, who keeps to his feet, stands tall and makes a world-class save to keep Spain level. Shambolic defending, mind...

26 minThis encounter is racing from end to end in a flash. Spain break again straight through the centre where the ball is finally moved to the left. Iniesta comes back inside to feed Costa, who makes tough work of his first touch and Morocco can clear at the crucial moment.

28 minYELLOW CARD! Amrabat goes into the back as he tries to beat Ramos to the ball in the midst of a Moroccan counter attack. Spain win the free kick and it's a timely one - Amrabat would have been through there.

30 minYELLOW CARD! Morocco need to be careful as da Costa goes in too tight on Isco over on the left flank. That's three bookings inside the first half for Renard's men. Oh, and another for Boussoufa as he gives the referee too big a piece of his mind.

32 minIsco opts to take the resulting free kick, although his whipped delivery is unable to clear the first man and Moroccan can clear with relative ease.

34 minLa Roja are totally dominant at the moment as they work the ball inside and out within the Moroccan half. Renard's men are working incredibly hard on their shape and it's proving effective at the moment as Morocco remain compact and tough to break down.

36 minSpain get the rare chance to turn in a corner on the right side of the pitch, but Silva's eventual ball is poor and fails to clear El Ahmadi at the near post. Costa looks a little peeved in the middle of the area.

37 minCHANCE! Another corner is worked from the left this time and Busquets leaps free of his marker, only to plant a poor header straight over the bar with just the keeper to beat. The midfielder has made a real mess of that. Spain should be in front.

39 minFor a side with nothing to play for, Morocco have made a proper game of this so far after 40-odd minutes. Spain are probing with guile and invention, but Renard's men are still holding firm as we head towards the break.

41 minThe Reds continue to push for an opener as Costa pulls wide to receive the ball down the right flank, leaving Hakimi to shuffle across and thwart the run of the Spain forward.

43 minIt's wave after wave of Spanish attack as we go into the break. Hierro's men haven't quite found the final ball well enough but there's plenty here to suggest that La Roja will fancy themselves in the second half.

45 minWe are going to have two minutes of additional time in the first half...

45+1 minStill Spain push men forward but they are unable to penetrate this Moroccan wall at the back. Iniesta gets to the byline only to see his cut-back evade a lunging Costa inside the area.

45+2 minHALF TIME: SPAIN 1-1 MOROCCO

7.48pmWhat a game we are seeing so far! Morocco have made this a real contest for Spain just when you might have expected them to roll over having already been eliminated. Spain have been crisp and energetic going forward, but there are still plenty of questions to be answered at the back.

7.49pmMorocco were ready to pounce on that mistake and Boutaib was denied a second thanks to a stunning save from David de Gea. La Roja do look confident going forward, though, and you wouldn't put it past them taking the lead after the break. Spain seem dangerous when the ball is at the feet of either Isco or Iniesta.

8.01pmHierro will just want his men to carry on probing as the half wears on. Morocco do not need to change much, they have offered a threat on the counter and have so far defended resolutely. Pressure will be mounting on spare the longer things stay level, but so many of these players in red have been there and done it before on so many occasions.

46 minSECOND HALF! We are back moving in Kaliningrad. Spain are on course to qualify but a single Moroccos goal could change that drastically...

48 minIt's a fairly conservative start from the Spaniards. The ball is worked over to the right but the build-up is far too slow. Hakimi shuffles over and can easily dispossess Silva, who has been rather quiet tonight.

50 minAlready the carousel is back moving as Spain continue to probe inside the Morocco half. Isco looks to scamper into space down the left, but the linesman has his flag raised when the winger collects off Pique.

52 minPortugal have now taken the lead against Iran, meaning that Spain currently sit in second with their Iberian counterparts taking top spot in the group.

53 minSilva finally comes alive with a telling run in off the right wing. The midfielder shifts the ball into the feet of Isco on the edge of the area, although the youngster is soon hounded out before he can make the vital pass into space for Costa.

55 minThe Reds are bubbling. Both full-backs are being encouraged to bomb forward and it won't be long until a good chance is mustered. A teasing corner comes into the middle from Silva, but Mohamedi is early off his line to pick the ball out of the air.

55 minOFF THE WOODWORK! How has this stayed out? Amrabat winds up from range on the right side and he sees his thunderous effort leave De Gea stranded, only to see the ball cannon back off the frame of the goal. That would have been strike of the tournament.

57 minHow many Spanish fans are hiding behind sofas at the moment? That was a huge wake-up call for La Roja. The Moroccans are making some monumental noise inside the Kaliningrad Stadium now.

59 minSpain get the chance to turn a free kick into a dangerous area from the left, although Isco's ball to the near post flatters to deceive and Dirar can get a foot in.

61 minSame old, same old from Spain with Hierro's men camped inside the Morocco half now. You get the feeling that they might just need a plan B if things wear on like this...

62 minOFF THE LINE! Spain should be in front. Isco leaps highest in the box to send a header back across goal towards the far corner. It looks to be sailing into the net, only for Saiss to rise above and nod the ball off the line to deny Spain a second.

63 minCHANCE! The resulting set-piece sees Pique move free of his marker, but his eventual header drifts just a matter of centimetres wide of the post with Mohamedi seemingly beaten.

65 minMorocco have played well in this tournament but have just missed the rub of the green at times. Already heading out, Renard's men are making a valiant effort of this contest and have had Spain teetering at times.

67 minBeautiful work from Iniesta and Silva as they aim to pass Morocco to death. Silva is played through into space but tries one pass too many and the move breaks down without a shot being taken. That sort of sums up Spain's night going forward - verbose.

69 minSHOT! Slightly better from Spain who seek to use a little more variation. Costa holds the ball up well before laying it back into the feet of Thiago, but his effort from the edge of the area flies over the bar. Great idea, but woeful execution from the midfielder.

71 minMorocco need to rally themselves a little more here despite all of this standout hardwork. Renard's men are dropping just a little too deep and the underdogs are starting to get a little constricted at the back.

73 minCHANGES! Spain make two changes. Costa is replaced by Iago Aspas, while Thiago is swapped out for young playmaker Marco Asensio.

75 minIs there still a major twist to be taken here? Spain continue to do all the pushing, but Morocco are holding off firmly. Could Renard's men pinch something on the break?

77 minEl Ahmadi has been everywhere in the Morocco midfield. Iniesta wants a little too much time on the ball and the midfielder steps in to break up the play. The way in which Renard's men revert back into formation as soon as they're beaten has been delightful to watch at times.

79 minThe lack of another option could prove damaging for Spain if they do go deeper in the tournament. It has all been slightly obvious in front of the Moroccan box.

81 minGOAL! SPAIN 1-2 MOROCCO (YOUSSEF EN-NESYRI)

81 minOh my word... What a twist? Spain still look likely to go through with Portugal winning, but Morocco have bagged what could be a late winner here. Substitute En-Nesyri makes mince meat of Ramos at a corner to head beyond a helpless De Gea. An absolute bullet of a header...

83 minThe stadium is rocking now as Spain look to be heading towards a shock defeat as things stand. Portugal still lead against Iran, meaning the Spaniards are safe for now.

86 minWhat have Spain got in them? We are heading towards a standout result here...

90+1 minGOAL! SPAIN 2-2 MOROCCO (IAGO ASPAS)

90+1 minThe referee does not initially give this as Aspas turns the ball home from close range. A VAR decision is called and Spain get the rub of the green to steal a point right at the death! Spain are through to the knockouts thanks to a 2-2 draw.

90+3 minThere are all manner of complaints going on here as you can expect, but Spain are back level. Portugal have just been pegged back too so La Roja go top of the group!

90+6 minFULL TIME: SPAIN 2-2 MOROCCO

9.05pmWhat a strange end to proceedings. The goal was rightly given after a VAR review and Spain have secured a crucial draw that actually sees them top the group. Iran equalised late against Portugal so Spain are now set to face Russia in the last 16. That's going to be all from me, but thanks for joining us for such a thrilling evening.

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Spain's squad lines up for their official 2018 World Cup photoshoot
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