Alvaro Morata among the scorers, as Spain beat Croatia 5-3 after overtime to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
Spanish striker Alvaro Morata responded to his vicious criticism by helping fire his team with a 5-3 win over Croatia after overtime on Monday to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 in a breathless match full of plots.
In what may have been the best game so far, Spain fell behind in the first half with an own goal from Pedri from close to the midfield after goalkeeper Unai Simon let a pass pass in front of him. .
But the three-time European champions regained their balance and looked on the road to a comfortable victory with goals from Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres.
Showing the spirit that led them to the final final of the World Cup, Croatia starred in an amazing comeback with goals from Mislav Orsic in the 85th minute and a header from Mario Pasalic in added time to force the extra period.
Although Luis Enrique’s men showed great character, they prevailed with Morata’s magnificent stop in the 100th minute and Mikel Oyarzabal’s goal in the 103rd.
Spain celebrated its first knockout victory in a major tournament since winning Euro 2012 to set up a quarter-final against France or Switzerland in St. Petersburg on Friday.
“It was an epic game,” Luis Enrique said.
“I have experienced many intense games in my career, but this was one of the best. An infinite number of things happened to us, but we knew how to turn things around. Everyone has seen our true team spirit today.
Goalkeeper Azpilicueta added: “We have suffered a lot, we haven’t won a game in the play-offs for a long time and we finally got it against the World Cup runners-up.”
Croatia are heading home with their heads held high, but are still hoping to win a play-off match in Euros.
“At the beginning of extra time, we had them on the ropes, but we didn’t manage to score on two good occasions. Then the game turned around and we didn’t have the strength to come back “, said midfielder Luka Modric.
Coach Zlatko Dalic added: “We did everything we could, we got him back to 3-3, we had some chances, but in the end we couldn’t beat him.”
Morata responds to criticism
Morata has been the focus of Spain’s campaign amid inconsistent performances and criticism from his own fans, who took an ugly turn during last week’s 5-0 win over Slovakia.
His wife and children were threatened by Seville supporters and he complained of facing death threats before the match, prompting coach Luis Enrique to call for police action.
The striker has long struggled for consistency in front of goal in a career that has taken him to Real Madrid, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Juventus, while he has been accused by former coaches and teammates. ‘team to have a fragile disposition.
But here he showed the steel when Spain’s confidence was on the ground, controlling with one foot a cross from Dani Olmo before throwing to the roof of the net to put Spain ahead again.
Substitute Oyarzabal attacked moments after another cross from Olmo to increase Spain’s lead and this time Croatia had no answer.
The result made them the first Euros team to score five or more goals in consecutive games, with Morata joining Fernando Torres as their nation’s top scorer in five goals.
Pedri set an unwanted record: his own goal from 49 yards was his own longest goal of a Euros and the first of the tournament from outside the area.