Pablo Sarabia made the difference as Spain eked out a 1-0 win over Switzerland on Thursday night to seal their first victory in UEFA Nations League Group A2.

Pablo Sarabia took advantage of a defensive blunder by Switzerland to give Luis Enrique’s team the lead in Geneva, and it proved enough for the visitors in a game devoid of clear-cut scoring opportunities. After another lacklustre showing against the Czech Republic last Sunday, Spain desperately needed a victory to salvage their campaign, and an uninspiring Switzerland were the ideal opposition.

While their overall display hardly improved despite heavy rotation from Luis Enrique, Spain did manage to get the desired result in Geneva to get their UEFA Nations League campaign back on track. Spain did get off to a brighter start, showing an urgency and zip in the first few minutes. The press was also effective as Spain regained the ball high up the field and unleashed Marcos Llorente on the Swiss defence.

The 27-year-old shrugged off a tackle and squared it for Pablo Sarabia to knock in from close range. After a VAR review, the goal was confirmed, putting the away team ahead. The game eventually settled into a rhythm in which Spain kept hold of the ball, enjoying almost 70% possession. But Spain provided less threat as the game progressed as Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres lacked the finesse and movement to profit from it.

Switzerland showed more desire in the second half. Although they only had one shot on goal, they did cause Unai Simon problems. The hosts became more direct with long balls over the top and were almost gifted an equaliser as Spain struggled to deal with them. The Spanish goalkeeper raced out of his goal in an attempt to make a clearance but missed the ball and was lucky not to be punished.

Breel Embolo placed his shot wide before Haris Seferovic had a shot blocked valiantly by Pau Torres. After three Group A2 matches, Spain have five points, two points behind leaders Portugal and two points ahead of third-placed Czech Republic. Meanwhile, Switzerland are dead and buried, having suffered three consecutive losses.

Unai Simon: 5/10

Simon had a rather comfortable evening as he only had to make one routine save all evening and did more work with his feet than his gloves. The Spain no. 1 barely broke a sweat, barring some shaky moments late in the game. He charged out of his goal twice in quick succession and failed to get the ball, leaving a gaping goal. But thankfully for him, Breel Embolo’s shot went wide, while Haris Seferovic’s goalbound shot was blocked.

Jordi Alba: 6/10

Alba was sharp as usual, showing some nice touches while keeping an eye on Xherdan Shaqiri. He continually pushed forward throughout the game and drove his side forward from the left flank. Defensively, there was very little troubling the veteran full-back, who made a match-high 3 tackles and won all of his ground duels (4/4). That said, he would be disappointed with the lack of cutting edge in the final third.

Pau Torres: 7/10

The best of the defenders for Spain. Torres had no trouble dealing with the threat of Breel Embolo, thereby minimising the young forward’s influence. In a comfortable evening, the 24-year-old put up a Rolls Royce display from the back, with more touches (117), more accurate passes (99/102), more successful dribbles (2/2) and more successful clearances (6/6) than any other player on the pitch.

Diego Llorente: 7/10

Starting ahead of Eric Garcia at the heart of Spain’s defence, Llorente justified Luis Enrique’s decision by producing an excellent performance. He always looked forward and distributed the ball nicely. Also, alert to runners in behind, covering to snuff out danger on several occasions by making key interceptions. The Leeds man, though, was sloppy in the mix-up that led to Switzerland’s shot.

Cesar Azpilicueta: 6.5/10

The Chelsea skipper delivered a solid, if not spectacular, performance. For the most part, he defended his flank admirably and even offered a solid outlet on occasion. Typically solid off the ball, Azpilicueta kept a check on Steven Zuber and got through the game without ever being troubled.

Gavi: 7/10

Rewarded with a start after becoming La Roja’s youngest player to score a goal in a competitive match last time out, Gavi once again proved his worth against Switzerland. At just 17 years old, he put on a classy display, juggling the ball over opposition players for fun, showing the composure, movement and intelligence of a seasoned player while also driving his side upfield. A special talent.

Sergio Busquets: 8/10

The Barcelona captain rolled back the years on his 136th international cap and was back to his best on the day. He was the essence of calmness, composure, and control in the Spanish midfield. Even while being surrounded by much more athletic and physical Swiss defenders, he utilised his game intelligence and technical skills to retain the ball.

This is well exemplified by his brilliant second-half challenge on Breel Embolo, in which, despite his lack of strength and pace, Busquets expertly took the ball from Embolo’s grasp with no hassle. The experienced Barcelona player was effective throughout the game as Spain dominated. He came up with many crucial interceptions and found nearly all of his long balls (8/9).

Marcos Llorente: 7/10

Llorente and Sarabia were the main focus of Spain’s attack with their speed, fed by precise passes from teenager Gavi. The Atletico Madrid midfielder tried to make things happen all game long and created the goal for Sarabia with an inch-perfect low cross. After that moment, there was a lot of purpose and desire in his performance, but Llorente was found wanting with the end product in the final third once again.

Pablo Sarabia: 7/10

Sarabia had the licence to drift across the frontline, and he made the most of it by slipping in between two defenders to get on the end of Llorente’s cross. His movement caused problems for the Swiss defence, and he led the press from the front as well. That said, his impact on the game faded as the game progressed, and he struggled to maintain consistency. He also lost possession ten times. Nonetheless, it was his goal that ultimately decided the game.

Alvaro Morata: 7/10

Spain’s first-choice striker had a lively evening in the forward line, even though he did not pose a goal threat. Morata showed some nice touches, and link-up plays but did not possess that striker material in front of goal, reflected by his only one shot all game, which was also off target. He looked promising, at times, with his attacking forays, playing a couple of key passes and putting in the hard yards to keep the Switzerland on their toes, winning 7 fouls.

Ferran Torres: 5/10

A game to forget for Ferran Torres, who struggled to get involved a whole lot during the course of the game, apart from a few moments when he got the better of Ricardo Rodriguez. The 22-year-old managed just one shot on Thursday. His wastefulness on the ball, in particular, was annoying, as he lost possession 16 times. He has to improve.

SUBSTITUTES

Koke: 6/10

Koke was introduced to see out a win in the last quarter of the game, and the Atletico Madrid captain did precisely what was asked of him. He performed effectively to control his side of the pitch, as is typical of his combative approach.

Marco Asensio: 6/10

Asensio tried to make things happen but could not lay a glove on the match despite a lot of possession. He offered no threat in creating chances and fired one shot wide off the mark.

Dani Olmo: 5/10

Olmo was unable to make an impression after replacing Sarabia at the hour mark, and he will be looking for better performances in the future. He was not involved in any significant attacking or defensive action but won all of his duels (4/4).

Carlos Soler: N/A

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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