Goals from Pablo Fornals and Ferran Torres fired Spain to a 2-0 victory over Kosovo in their FIFA World Cup 2022 Group B Qualifying fixture in Pristina.
Coming on the back of a resounding win over Georgia, Spain found it difficult to get going in the early stages. Instead, it was hosts Kosovo that had a brighter start to the proceedings, with Elbasan Rashani peppering the La Roja goal from outside the box. However, a little past the half-hour mark some neat interplay between Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata saw the latter play Pablo Fornals in, who fired Spain in front.
Luis Enrique’s side had a couple of chances to add to their tally before the break, with Soler coming close from a free-kick while Morata sent a header wide as the scoreline remained 1-0. Kosovo, though, were still very much in the game and should have equalised early in the second period when a mistake from Inigo Martinez allowed Vedat Muriqi an opportunity, but the striker failed to make it count.
At the other end, Ferran Torres and Sergio Busquets fired their efforts wide off the mark while Kosovo were denied an equaliser soon after with Unai Simon stopping Zymer Bytyqi. With just two minutes left on the clock, Spain ensured that there was no late comeback for their hosts, as Torres found the back of the net to make it 2-0 and kill the tie.
The result, coupled with Sweden’s loss to Georgia, sees La Roja open up a four-point lead at the top of Group B, although the Swedes do still have two games in hand. Here are our player ratings for the Spain stars following an unconvincing, but important victory in Kosovo.
Unai Simon: 7/10
Was not tested a great deal but still needed to be alert to any threat that Kosovo posed, which he was, as he stopped multiple efforts on either side of half-time to ensure that Spain had their noses ahead.
Marcos Llorente: 6/10
Given the nod at right-back ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta, the Atletico Madrid ace had a decent enough outing. Did not allow much to get past him defensively when Kosovo did push forward and was accurate with his usage of the ball. Moved into midfield for a brief time after the break before being subbed off.
Aymeric Laporte: 7/10
Saw plenty of the ball on the night and made sure he did not give it away cheaply, as he completed the most number of passes (125), aiding Spain’s buildup from the back. Not exerted a great deal at the back but was present to deal with any potential danger, making five clearances.
Inigo Martinez: 6/10
Brought into the side ahead of Eric Garcia, the Athletic Bilbao ace had a fairly comfortable outing, barring the one moment when an error led to a chance for Muriqi. Thankfully for him, the Kosovo striker did not capitalise.
Sergio Reguilon: 6.5/10
Sergio Reguilon played 86 minutes for Spain this evening against Kosovo. pic.twitter.com/ksmyqmg0Vt
— The Spurs Express (@TheSpursExpress) September 8, 2021
Drafted into the squad for just this game after the injury to Jose Gaya, Reguilon was thrust into the lineup right away by Enrique ahead of Jordi Alba. The Tottenham man had one or two issues at the back, but did not get bogged down and provided a decent outlet going forward as well. Finished with one key pass, three tackles and an interception.
Kept things ticking along for Spain in the middle of the park with his accurate distribution. Misplaced just four of his 79 attempted passes on the night and did his bit off the ball as well, ensuring Spain stayed on the front-foot for large parts.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Back into the side after being rested in the previous game, the Spain captain was his usual self in the middle, cutting out moves for the home team and recycling possession effectively. Made five tackles and an interception. Could have scored in the second half, but saw his shot go off the target.
Carlos Soler: 7.5/10
Yet another impressive display from the Valencia midfielder, who was our Player to Watch for the contest. Drove Spain forward with intent and was always on the lookout to create openings for his teammates. Played a game-high five key passes even though he was on the pitch for less than an hour. Had a role in the first goal and forced a save from a free-kick as well.
Ferran Torres: 7/10
Ferran Torres now has 6 goal contributions in his last 4 games. Bagsman🇪🇸⚡️ pic.twitter.com/J9V5uUPS5D
— City Inside (@CityInside_) September 8, 2021
Another game, another goal for the Manchester City forward who has started the new season on a strong note for club and country. Looked a threat in the final third with his intelligent movement and link-up. Made two dribbles and a key pass, before sealing the win with the late goal.
Alvaro Morata: 7/10
Back into the lineup after being benched against Georgia, Morata was a lively presence at the top. While he might not have scored on the night, the Juventus forward was a handful with his sharp runs. Did well to set Fornals up for the opener, had a shot stopped and another go wide. Finished with two key passes as well.
Pablo Fornals: 7/10
Given the nod over Pablo Sarabia, Fornals made the most of his opportunity, bagging the opening goal with a fierce strike after beating a defender. Created a chance, and worked hard off the ball before eventually making way for Adama Traore. Like Torres, has started the season on fire.
Pablo Fornals during the 2021/22 season:
🅰 vs Newcastle
⚽ vs Leicester
⚽ vs Crystal Palace
🅰 vs Georgia
⚽ vs Kosovo
On fire for club and country. pic.twitter.com/uHGBjg8N8l
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 8, 2021
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6/10
On for Soler in the 58th minute. Kept things steady at right-back.
Adama Traore: 6.5/10
Replaced Fornals just before the hour mark. Lively cameo during which he managed two key passes.
Pablo Sarabia: 6/10
Sent on for Morata in the 72nd minute. Did not have a lot of time to impact the game, but did his bit to keep Spain on top.
Mikel Merino: N/A
Late sub for Llorente. Assisted the second goal.
Raul Albiol: N/A
Late sub for Reguilon.