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Ukraine 1-0 Spain: Adama Traoré plays hosts on his own


Spain had 20 shots and nine corners in Kiev, but scored no goals. Their only genuine attacking threat was Adama Traoré, who put in quite a display. Time and time again, he got to the byline to deliver the cross; he simply always got there. To begin with, there was one Ukraine man on him. Then there were two, then three, and finally four. But again and again Traoré made it past his markers, beating them with a change of direction or simply charging through in a straight line. When he sent the ball into the area, however, Spain were clearly missing something. They lacked a fox in the box with that killer instinct. The only point at which they had a target man fighting tooth and nail to get himself on the end of chances was when Sergio Ramos went up front late on, as La Roja sought to salvage something.

Luis Enrique's Spain side caught between two schools

Right now, this Spain team finds itself caught halfway between the possession-heavy side of the ‘tiki-taka’ era and one that instead looks to hit the opposition with quick, direct play down the wings. Indeed, Traoré’s forward bursts down the right (Ansu Fati struggled to make such an impression on the left) not only lacked a top-quality finisher in the danger area, but also midfield players that are used to making late attacking runs into shooting positions. That said, Spain shouldn’t have lost this game. Through sheer persistence, they did manage to get in a number of attempts on goal; unfortunately, though, none were good enough to beat Heorhiy Bushchan, Ukraine’s fourth-choice keeper. All in all, the visitors can look back on a game in which they squandered a fabulous evening of wing play from Traoré.

De Gea exposed as Ukraine snatch winner

And their goal-shy performance was topped off by the sucker punch of Ukraine’s late winner. A long ball forward by Bushchan caught Sergio Reguilón out of position, Oleksandr Karavaev nodded it down for Andriy Yarmolenko - and he threaded a pass through to meet the diagonal run of Viktor Tsygankov, who shot into the net with David de Gea in no-man’s land, unsure exactly where his goal was. De Gea struggles as a sweeper-keeper, a role Luis Enrique had evidently asked him to play in Kiev because of the type of game it was. It was painfully clear that he’s not used to it, and he left himself wide open for Ukraine’s goal, bringing back memories of his awful World Cup in Russia. Where games are won and lost is in the areas - and, because of that, Spain’s Nations League group is now quite a bit tighter.