Barcelona defender Gerard Pique headed a late winner as defending champions Spain overcame a resolute and determined Czech Republic 1-0 in their Group D opener here on Monday. After a nervous opening period on a rain-soaked pitch, Vrba’s men had Arsenal ‘keeper Petr Cech to thank for saving them during a Spanish masterclass.
Spain were frustrated throughout by the Czechs’ stubborn defensive game, which finally fell apart when Pique got his head to Iniesta’s cross towards the back post where he beat Cech in the 87th minute.
It took Spain until the 16th minute to fashion their first real chance, right-back Juanfran sending David Silva through on the right flank for the Manchester City man to fire in a perfect delivery for Morata.
Cech, however, was well positioned to block the Juventus striker’s first-timer from close range.
The Czechs were defending with plenty of heart and only a desperate sliding tackle from centre-back Tomas Sivok stopped Juanfran’s short delivery reaching Morata as the Spaniards edged closer.
A counter-attack involving Czech captain Tomas Rosicky gave Tomas Necid the chance to test De Gea from the edge of the area but the ‘keeper saved comfortably.
The Czechs were given a sniff when Roman Hubnik got his to Ladislav Krejci’s free kick from outside the area, but De Gea got down well to save. De Gea had Cesc Fabregas to thank when he produced a spectacular overhead kick to keep Theodor Gebre Selassi’s header out following a corner.
A delightful chip from Silva found Jordi Alba unmarked but his mis-hit shot was bundled out for a corner. Minutes later Silva was the welcome recipient as Spain zipped the ball around the area but the Ciy forward sent his left-foot effort wide of the target.
Spain finally made the breakthrough three minutes from the end, but at the death they had Dea Gea to thank for keeping out a dangerous shot by Vladimir Darida.