Millennium Post

Spain stave off brave Morocco to enter next stage

Kaliningrad (Russia): Morocco almost created the biggest upset of the 2018 FIFA World Cup before a late goal handed Spain a 2-2 draw in a Group B match here on Monday.

Khalid Boutaib gifted Morocco a surprise lead in the 14th minute before Isco (19th) restored parity for Spain five minutes later.

Youssef En-Nesyri gave Morocco the lead for the second time in the 81st minute.

But Iago Aspas scored in second half injury time to avoid an embarrassing defeat for Spain. Spain thus finished the group stage with five points from three matches and are through to the second round.

With Iran stunning heavyweights Portugal in the day's other Group B game by holding the reigning European champions to a draw, Spain finished at the top of the group. Although both Spain and Portugal finished the group stage with five points each, the former have a better goal difference.

Spain will meet hosts Russia in the next round. Russia had finished second in Group A.

Needing a draw to avoid a first round exit, star-studded Spain struggled against the well organised Morocco defence throughout the game.

The only aspect in which Morocco were stronger than Spain were the aerial balls, thanks to their height and physical strength. The North Africans used that advantage to full effect.

While Spain kept the Morocco defence under tremendous pressure for the most part, most of the crosses and long balls were dealt with effectively by the Africans.

At the other end of the pitch, Morocco repeatedly troubled the Spanish defence with long balls.

Spain central defenders Pique and Sergio Ramos had to fight a tough, physical battle to keep the Morocco forwards at bay. Morocco created the whiff of a possible upset when a mix up between Iniesta and Sergio Ramos allowed Boutaib to snatch the ball and race clear on goal before beating David de Gea in the Spanish goal with a calm finish.

Next Story
Share it