Spain 4-0 Macedonia: match report
Job done without a vintage performance
In what turned out to be a very satisfactory night for Spain - especially considering that Italy didn't add any further goals to the four from the first half - Lopetegui will be sure not to get carried away with the scoreline. Macedonia arrived in Granada with the confidence showing from their near upset against the Azzurri and had it not been for a misplaced clearing header from Velkoski ten minutes before the break they could have found themselves level going into the second half. Spain dominated possession, this is nothing new, but there was a lack of fluidity at times that meant clear chances were few and far between. In fact, rather than being ahead, two other Macedonian headers could have had them trailing.
A late gloss added
As it was, that own goal kick-started the home side and, although some passes were still going astray, the control started to turn more dangerous and it felt like a second was coming as their own defensive tests became scarcer. And in the 63rd minute Vitolo, who had impressed on the right, finished off a Silva cross and from then on it seemed that the three points were pretty much assured. Morata had been taken off just a few minutes before that goal - and didn't do enough to suggest he is a starter ahead of the injured Costa just yet - and it was his replacement, Aduríz who added the gloss to the result in the 85th minute. In doing so he became the oldest player to score for La Roja. Just a couple of minutes before that, Monreal had slotted calmly home from a Carvajal ball in.
Spain did what they needed to do and were without several of their regular starters, which likely explains why the machine looked a little short of oil, and from this it will be interesting to see how Lopetegui lines up for the friendly against England on Tuesday. The key was to remain top of Group G and that, in the end, was comfortably achieved.
Spain 4 - 0 Macedonia: how it unfolded
Min 90+3 | Peep, peep, peeeeep! Full time.
Min 90+2 | Thought the ref had forgotten his cards, but I was wrong, Alioski gets a yellow for a foul on Carvajal.
Min 90 | Three more minutes to be played at the referee's discretion.
Min 89 | Callejon finds a gap to shoot from the edge of the area but pulls it wide of the left post. Much more satisfying night for Lopetegui now.
Min 87 | Sub. Callejon on for the impressive Vitolo.
Min 85 | Goooooooooolll! Aduriz. The recently introduced player was set up nicely with a dummy that left him alone to stroke it into the bottom right with an open boot. At 35 years 275 days old he becomes the oldest Spanish player to score.
Min 83 | Goooooooooooll! Monreal!! Isco and Carvajal create a crossing chance with the latter drifting it over everyone to the onrushing Arsenal defender who side-foot volleys it into the corner. Nice!
Min 81 | Sub. Ibriami comes on for Macedonia.
Min 78 | Pandev seemed to take out some frustration on Busquets there as he hacks him to the ground. The 33-year old, now at Genoa, shows angry face to the ref and escapes a booking.
Min 76 | An opportiunity wasted there for the visitors as space opens up on the left but as the uncertain move finishes with the ball at Alioski's feet on the edge of the area, the challenge comes in and it's gone.
Min 73 | Lopetegui's boys have had a fairly consistent 75% possession all night. They'll be hoping they can capitalise on a potentially tiring Macedonia who have worked hard to close spaces down tonight.
Min 71 | Sub. Isco comes on for Koke to a very warm reception.
Min 68 | Two chances for Macedonia. The first is a lovely move that results in some short passes on the left feeding Pandev to run in on De Gea and score. Flag up though. Then Bardi lets fly from around 25 yards and the United stopper flew to the right to push it away.
Min 66 | Silky feet from Silva in the area as he takes Vitolo heeled flick, dances round a couple of challenges, and as the space closes he rolls it behind to Koke who can't get a shot away from the dangerous/precise sliding challenge.
Thiago held up the ball well on the left side of the area and then laid it back to Busquets who fed it threw to the forward running Silva inside the box. His cross from the goal-line deflected off the near post defender, evaded the keeper and the Sevilla man was on hand at the back to nod it home with the falling Aleksovski grasping.
Min 63 | Goooooooooooool! Third in four for Vitolo.
Min 62 | Thiago gets a shot away from just outside the box after some neatish build up between Silva and Monreal. Deflected for a corner.
Min 60 | Subs. So, that special Morata thing. Not going to happen. Aduriz replaces him. Zuta also comes on for the final half hour.
Min 57 | Nestorovski gets his head to a free kick curled into the Spanish area from deep but directs it wide. The Palermo man (who has 6 in 12 for them this season) is annoyed with himself.
Min 55 | Spain are dangerous enough as they get into the final third but there is something lacking at the finish. Morata will be hoping to do something special to keep him ahead of Costa who is currently out injured.
Min 53 | Vitolo providing a lot of the danger and getting involved a lot in the early play. Iago Aspas and the rest warming up on the sidelines.
Min 52 | Lovely exchange between Vitolo and Silva on the left of the area but the final ball pulled back across the penalty box has no one running in.
Min 49 | Silva gets an opportunity to swing a leg from inside the area but can't contort his body to make it easy and the ball runs away to safety.
Min 47 | Chance for Alioski as Bartra messes up a clearance from his own area but the first time effort is blocked by the head of Nacho and away for a corner. Nothing comes of it.
Min 46 | The whistle blows and immediately Morata has a chance. Ball rolled across just behind him from Vitolo on the right and as the Madrid striker tries to turn with it he can only get a soft shot away which causes no problem. Was he clipped as he turned?
The teams are back out for the second half. No changes from either side
Spain 1 - 0 Macedonia (Velkoski o.g.): half time
So, Spain lead, thanks to an own goal, but certainly haven't flowed in the way we have become accustomed to them. Clearly a change in personnel can be laid down as a reason for this but Lopetegui will be hoping for more chances to be created in the second 45. In saying that, chances have fallen to La Roja with Morata having the best of them but had Pandev and Mojsov taken more care with their respective headers Spain may be having a very different team talk. The visitors have had little opportunity to play but are certainly aiming to push out when possible. How Angelovski sends them out in the second half may determine if this is a nervous, frustrating Granada night for the home side. Group rivals Italy are four up.
Min 45+2 | Nothing else of note as the half time whistle blows and both teams head for some manager advice.
Min 45 | Two minutes added time. Spain corner comes in from the left and again is just lifted into the box, this time too close to Aleksovski who commands his area with a catch.
Min 43 | Some exchanges of possession between both teams in the middle of the park then results in an almost chance for Vitolo who drifted in behind the left back and controlled the lofted pass beautifully as he ran in on goal. He was pulled back with the assistant's flag though.
Min 41 | Width and options being provided by the Spanish full-backs who are not shy at getting forward. Monreal this time being slipped in by Silva but rightly judged offside. Just.
Min 40 | As I say that Morata trips over the grass and Silva gives away a clumsy foul. How will Macedonia respond? Close up till oranges or go longer and try to nick something?
Min 38 | Checked replay. Well done ref. Spain seem to have a little more of a swagger since the goal.
Min 36 | Penalty shout. Nothing given as Vitolo goes down in the area under a challenge. Neat enough one-two before that with Silva.
Min 34 | Gooooooooooolll!!! Velkoski tries to clear the ball in from the right and heads it home.
Min 33 | Silva steps up...it clears the wall...and keeps rising. We expect better from the Man City silkster.
Min 32 | Lovely feet from Thiago who draws a free-kick from Ristevski on the edge of the area.
Min 30 | Silva, captain tonight, is the player looking most likely to create something to break the deadlock.
Min 27 | Another corner for Spain. Cleared by Ristevski (not to be confused with Ristovski!) for yet another. Both efforts were just lifted into the centre of the penalty area with the second one cleared well.
Min 25 | Another chance for the left foot of Morata. Sweet pass into the inside left channel but it's hit straight at the keeper who blocks with his legs.
Min 23 | Replay suggest Morata was offside in that previous move when the original ball deflected to him.
Min 21 | Two chances for Spain in quick succession. First Morata, Aleksovski blocks. Then Silva with a shot from the rebound as white-shirted defenders throw themselves in the way. Corner....nothing.
Min 19 | Not much of a rhythm to the play from Spain and Macedonia win a cheap corner. Nice delivery and Pandev has a great chance to nod it home. Just wide with De Gea stranded with crossed-gloved fingers.
Min 16 | Macedonia again try to play it out through their own half but as they edge towards the half-way line things get a little more complicated and Spain win it back. Bartra collects on the right and decides not to mess about and get it into the mixer. Skies it!
Min 14 | Shot from Morata. A nice turn to beat the defender on the edge of the area from the Madrid man but then he drags his left foot effort well wide of the right post. Italy have scored in the other game.
Min 13 | It's good to see the Baltic side pressing high. They're looking to take the game to Spain when possible...although they may pay.
Min 10 | Spain create another chance as Vitolo, again, gets a ball across the danger area and the incoming Monreal's controlled shot is blocked.
Min 9 | Add a minute or two for half time stoppage.
Min 7 | Aleksovski is down injured in the Macedonian goal. As Spain broke down the right, Vitolo fired it into the six yard area from the goal-line. As the keeper went down to collect he had the pleasure of meeting his defender's knee in the head. Up now.
Min 5 | Great chance. Short corner and deflected cross finds Mojsov alone at the back post who heads it straight at De Gea. What a let off for Spain.
Min 4 | Almost a chance for Macedonia. Ball nicely moved to the left and then the low ball in evades everyone in the box and is cleared. Corner for the team in white.
Min 3 | Nothing comes of the corner and the ball goes out for a goal kick.
Min 2 | Spain, even without some recognised starters, do what they do and knock the ball around for a couple of minutes before lifting the ball into the box for a Morata headed chance. Corner.
Min 0 | Peep. The vistors get us underway and keep the ball for 11 seconds.
Almost time. Teams are on the pitch with a cameraman walking very closely in front of the players as they sing/hum/do nothing for their respective anthems.
Spain - Macedonia: starting line-ups
Spain: De Gea; Carvajal, Bartra, Nacho, Monreal; Busquets; Koke, Thiago, Vitolo, Silva; Morata
Macedonia: Aleksovski; Velkoski, Mojsov, Ristevski; Ristovski, Hasani, Bardi, Spirovski, Alioski; Pandev, Nestorovski
Spain - Macedonia: latest news
20:30 | Just 15 minutes till kick off.
20:10 | "This is the big one!" Well, that's the message from Spain's manager Lopetegui who's told his troops to forget about next week's trip to Wembley. Their friendly opponents England may be more glamorous but there'll be no points on offer. Here's how Gareth Southgate's side got on last night against their auldest rival.
19:55 | If the visitors tonight manage to score early or get an equaliser, we'll be listening out for this type of reaction from Spanish TV commentators.
19:33 | Some possible debutants for Spain tonight include Manchester United's Herrera (joining De Gea and Mata from Mourinho's ranks) and Sevilla's full-back Sergio Escudero. If Escudero were to play he would have the chance to make history by becoming the first Sevilla player to score on his international debut, after 37 attempts before. Want me to check out the odds on that to happen? OK then, I won't waste my time.
19:12 | Stat attack: since the break up of Yugoslavia Spain have faced teams from said division on 26 occasions. In these they have won 18, drawn six and lost just twice. Those two losses were both against Croatia: 0-2 in the Mestalla (goals from Prosinecki and Suker) in March 1994 and 2-1 in this summer's Euros (Morata's goal not enough to beat those of Kalinic and Perisic).
18:33 | A quick look outside from our man in Granada and it's a cool evening, 11°C, with some clouds filling the darkening sky. No chance of rain though.
18:14 | Want to know a little more about Los Carmenes, the venue for tonight's game? Here are ten things you probably didn't know about the stadium.
18:06 | Another team in red are in World Cup qualifying action this evening - and will be maintaining a rather unusual, rather hilarious pre-match tradition...
17:13 | Ramos, Pique and Iniesta trying to suss each other out regarding injuries is the best part of Twitter today.
16:38 | Just under four hours until kick-off: have you had a chance to peruse our match preview below?
16:07 | When to watch, where to watch, how to watch... So many questions. Thankfully, we have all the answers.
15:28 | In need of some mid-afternoon reading material ahead of this evening's clash in Granada? Here are AS editor Alfredo Relaño's thoughts on the game.
14:15 | Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas was called up to replace the injured Diego Costa. This is how the Galician responded.
13:30 | The last 1,000 match tickets will go on sale this afternoon with all signs pointing to a sell-out in Granada.
Spain - Macedonia: match preview
A game on paper that should see a comfortable three points for Julen Lopetegui's men as Spain face the FIFA ranked 155th side. Despite having failed to secure a single point in the 2018 qualifying stage the Macedonians came close to pulling off a shock in their last fixture as they forced Italy to find two late goals to overcome the Balkan side. Alvaro Morata will lead the line for Spain in a close to sold-out Estadio Los Carmenes in Granada.
Despite having a depleted squad with key injury absentees (Pique, Iniesta, Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos and Diego Costa), Lopetegui can call upon high quality replacements in Bartra, Carvajal, David Silva and Alvaro Morata to face the Macedonians in Granada tonight.
La Roja have faced the Balkan nation on five occasions with five wins and a 14-3 aggregate score-line over the five corresponding matches. Despite building up the opposition in his pre-match press conference, the Basque coach will see this evening's game as an excellent opportuinity to improve the already impressive +10 goal difference knowing that in the event of a tie with the Italians at the summit of the group, goal difference may have a role to play in who secures the automatic ticket to Russia 2018.
Macedonian head coach, Angelovski acknowledged that his side are the under-dog going into the game in Granada but admitted he was encouraged by recent performances and in particular the scare they gave to Euro 2016 quarter-finalists Italy in Skopje when a Ciro Immobile brace late in the game saw the Macedonians deprived of creating a major shock in the international game.
Macedonia will look to veteran striker Pandev, now playing with Genoa after spells with Lazio, Napoli and Inter to trouble the Spanish rear-guard. The 33 year old will pair up with, arguably the most in-form Macedonian player currently, Palermo's Nestrovoski. The 26 year old will earn his eleventh cap this evening and comes into the game on the back of scoring against AC Milan for his club side.