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Match Analysis: Spain 1-0 Ukraine

Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action as Spain record a 1-0 win over Ukraine in their Euro 2016 Group C qualifier on Friday.

Alvaro Morata's first international goal saw Spain record a 1-0 victory over Ukraine in their Euro 2016 Group C qualifier on Friday.

The Juventus forward struck after 28 minutes to secure all the points against a spirited Ukraine, who had plenty of chances in the second period.

Here, Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action in Seville.

Match statistics

Shots: 17
On target: 5
Possession: 64%
Corners: 2
Fouls: 15

Shots: 9
On target: 2
Possession: 36%
Corners: 5
Fouls: 23

Was the result fair?

One look at the statistics will suggest that it was a fairly comfortable victory for Spain, but in truth, that was not the case. La Roja were much the better team in the first period and really should have led by more than one goal at the interval, but Ukraine were much more threatening in the second period. In fact, but for some excellent goalkeeping from Iker Casillas, Ukraine would have taken at least a point at the Estadio Ramon. As expected, the hosts controlled the possession for long spells and indeed had more attempts, but it would not have been entirely unjust had Ukraine snatched a late point. The result has moved Spain onto 12 points in Group C, but they still trail the leaders Slovakia, who have won all five of their group games thus far. Ukraine, meanwhile, remain third in the group on nine points.

Spain's performance

There were not too many surprises in the Spain XI, but Morata was given a start through the middle following an injury to Diego Costa. Aside from the inexperienced Juventus forward, it was a very recognisable side, with head coach Vicente del Bosque deciding to keep faith with the likes of Casillas, Sergio Busquets and David Silva. In the first period, Spain were simply brilliant, with Andres Iniesta controlling the match from a deeper position and both Isco and Koke influencing matters close to Morata. Indeed, the first goal arrived when Koke fed a super pass in to Morata and the forward made no mistake from inside the box. Koke and Silva also had excellent chances in the first period, before Sergio Ramos rattled the crossbar late in the half to leave Spain frustrated despite their one-goal lead at the break.

Spain were expected to push forward for a second after the break, but it was Ukraine that took control of matters and indeed played the better football in the final third. As mentioned, Casillas was called into action more frequently, while Ramos and Gerard Pique were both aerially strong under pressure from the visitors. It took until the final five minutes for Spain to create a second-half chance of note, with Santi Cazorla firing wide of the post following excellent work from Isco. A clean sheet and a victory are positives for Del Bosque, but this performance suggests that there is still a lot of work to do if they are to be considered as contenders for next summer's European Championships. Next up is a friendly against Netherlands and that will be a serious test.

Ukraine's performance

It would be fair to say that Ukraine boss Mykhaylo Fomenko would have been very disappointed with his team's performance in the first period, but whatever he said at the interval, it worked. In the first 45 minutes, the visitors showed far too much respect to the European champions and allowed the likes of Iniesta and Koke to control the midfield battle. Fomenko showed plenty of attacking intent with the XI that he selected, but in truth, the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka struggled to influence proceedings in the first period. They were also not helped when lone forward Roman Zozulya had to be replaced with an injury after 32 minutes, but there was a serious improvement in the second half. Ruslan Rotan had a personal battle with Casillas for much of the second period and unfortunately for Ukraine, the Spain goalkeeper came out on top.

Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka also grew into the match as they saw more of the ball, while the away side's threat from set pieces was there for all to see. Both teams had bright moments as the second period developed, but it was Ukraine that continued to look the most likely to score the game's second goal. Rotan had two or three excellent opportunities, but either hit Casillas or fired wide of the post as Spain's back four went walkabouts. On another night, Ukraine would have taken something from the game, but their lack of a top-class finisher, in the mould of Andriy Shevchenko, cost them the chance to upset Spain on their own patch.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Andres Iniesta: The Barcelona midfielder has faced a lot of criticism in recent weeks due to the fact that he has not registered a single league goal or league assist for his club this season. However, in Seville, Iniesta was simply excellent. The experienced playmaker controlled the tempo from a deep position and always looked the player most likely to make something happen. It was a display that absolutely radiated class.

Biggest gaffe

As touched upon, Rotan had plenty of chances in the second period, but his best opportunity arrived after 67 minutes when Artem Kravets showed excellent feet to set up the midfielder inside the Spain box. Rotan only had Casillas to beat, but he fired his effort straight at the goalkeeper from an excellent position . Ukraine might feel that they will never get a better chance to upset Spain on their own patch.

Referee performance

Referee Cuneyt Cakir can be pleased with his performance in Seville. There were a lot of late challenges, but the Turk only issued four yellow cards, which helped create a calm atmosphere on the pitch. There were not really any major decisions for Cakir to make on what was a comfortable evening in Spain.

What next?

Spain: La Roja will face Netherlands in a friendly on March 31. Their next Euro 2016 qualifier is away to Belarus on June 14.

Ukraine: Ukraine are also in friendly action on March 31 as they welcome Lativa. Their next Euro 2016 qualifier is at home to Luxembourg on June 14.

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Juventus' forward Alvaro Morata of Spain celebrates after scoring during an Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs. AC Milan at the Juventus Stadium in Turin on February 7, 2015
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