Four different Spanish goalscorers ensured that Julen Lopetegui’s mean cruised to an easy 4-1 victory against Elia Levy’s Israel at the Estadio El Molinon.
The former World and European Champions never really needed to hit top gear as Elisha Levy’s men never really matched up to quality in Spain’s squad. They had 3 shots on target, out of which one culminated in a goal, credited to Lior Refaelov. Besides that and a few routine saves, De Gea was barely troubled.
David Silva opened the scoring in the 13th minute with an accurate finish from a tight angle. Vitolo doubled his side’s lead in stoppage time of the first half. The scores remained 2-0 going into the break and in the second half, Diego Costa and Isco scored a goal on either side of a Lior Refaelov strike.
This victory ensures that Spain held on to their position at the top of Group G ahead of Italy on goal difference. We take a look at some of the major talking points and things we learnt from an easy Spanish victory.
Capitalising On Complacency
As expected, the hosts dominated throughout the game. They were seldom troubled and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession over the course of the game. They had a massive 76% possession and took 16 shots at Ofir Marciano’s goal, out of which only a mere 6 were on target.
Refaelov’s consolation strike was a result of shoddy set piece defending from the hosts, who failed to prevent Rami Gershon from getting on the end of a freekick to head the ball toward De Gea’s goal. The ball would would rattle off the posts and fall to an unmarked Lior Refaelov, who made no mistake from close range.
Diego Costa, David Silva, Iniesta and Thiago were all guilty of missing chances that could have a resulted in a far more embarrassing result for Elisha Levy’s men. It was clear that complacency had set in after their second goal was scored, as the game had effectively been put to bed in the first half.
While the Spaniard’s weren’t made to pay for those missed chances, their complacency isn’t something Lopetegui will be too pleased with.
First Choice Team Shaping Up?
In his 7 games in charge, Julen Lopetegui has used 21 players and 3 different formations – with the 4-3-3 being the most used. He has on occasion tried playing with a 3 man defence. Israel were never going to pose a significant threat to La Roja, but this was anything but second string squad.
Settling to a definite starting XI with the kind of talent available to him is no easy task. The likes of Alvaro Morata, Pedro, Cesc Fabregas, Saul Niguez and Ander Herrera are just some of the players who are waiting in the wings and Lopetegui has no shortage of world class talent to experiment with.
However, given his preference for a few players over the course of these 7 games, he may very well be see edging closer to a definite first choice XI. Only Manchester City’s David Silva, Sevilla forward Vitolo and Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets have started every game under Lopetegui’s reign.
Bayern Munich’s Thiago and David De Gea have started 6 of those games, while Atletico Madrid’s Koke, Real Madrid defenders Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal and Barcelona’s Gerard Pique have found themselves in the starting XI 5 times. Chelsea’s Diego Costa has led Spain’s attack 4 times.
The 50-year-old has no reason to fear trying out new formations and players, given how easy their qualifying group is. Italy are the only other major team in Group G and it is likely Lopetegui and will likely continue to do so and in their upcoming International friendly against France, we can expect to see a few more changes in the starting XI.
Silva has been one of Pep Guardiola’s most reliable players this season at Manchester City and has ensured that he brings the same form for his National side. His 13th minute opening goal was the perfect finish to a superb free flowing Spanish move.
Jordi Alba received the ball on the left and played an incisive through ball through the legs of Dasa to find David Silva, who had timed his run perfectly. The 31-year-old took a touch, positioned himself as he liked and sent it between the legs of a helpless Marciano to give his side the lead.
His goal was his 29th in national colors and he is now the joint 4th highest goalscorer for the Spanish National team. Only David Villa, Raul and Fernando Torres have more. He shares his position with Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro, but at the rate at which he’s going, he won’t have to for long.
He had a chance to score his 30th as well, after Diego Costa headed the ball onto his path to present him with a wonderful opportunity, but the former Valencia playmaker could only rattle it off the post. That was perhaps the only blemish on what was otherwise an outstanding performance.
Isco Shows His Class
Isco has had a difficult season at Real Madrid. His future has been the subject of intense speculation with various reports linking him with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer, with Chelsea, Tottenham and even Barcelona being cited as possible destinations.
He has found it difficult to break into Zinedine Zidane’s starting XI this season, mainly due to the presence of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro. He has also had to compete with the likes of James Rodriguez, Marco Asensio and Mateo Kovacic, which doesn’t make things any easier.
His exclusion from the Real Madrid starting XI won’t help his cause with the Spanish national team, so he would do well to take whatever little opportunity he is offered by Julen Lopetegui. That’s exactly what the 24-year-old did and put in a superb 20 minute cameo.
He was brought on for Andres Iniesta in the 70th minute and came on while the game was effectively over, but made the most of whatever time he had and managed to get on the scoresheet with a superb finish into the bottom left corner in the dying minutes of the match.
He pulled the strings in midfield in the absence of Thiago and Iniesta and was comfortable in possession. It was a short, yet effective performance that should give his manager something to think about. It remains to be seen if this performance was good enough to see him be rewarded with a starting berth against France on Tuesday.
Costa, The Undisputed
Including his goal against Israel, his tally now stands at 4 goals and 1 assist in the 5 games he’s played for Julen Lopetegui. Prior to his appointment, Costa had only scored 2 goals and registered 1 assist in 10 games for the Spanish national team.
After shaking off the rust of last season, the Chelsea hitman has been outstanding for the Blues this season, finding the net 18 times in 31 appearances this season and is currently leading Antonio Conte’s men to their second Premier League title in three years.
It wasn’t even best game in Spanish colours and he could’ve scored more than one goal tonight, had he not skewed an easy header wide in the 46th minute. He made up for his miss soon after, with a towering header to score his side’s 3rd goal and put the game beyond reach of the visitors.
He has managed to keep out Athletic Bilbao’s Aritz Aduriz and Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas,which is no mean feat considering both of them have been in superb form for their club sides. Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata and Barcelona’s Paco Alcacer are also vying for his place.
For now, it seems as if Costa has Lopetegui’s implicit trust and with assuring and dominant performances like these, it will only enhance his manager’s faith in him.