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Euro 2024: Spain 1-0 Albania – Perfect Spain send Albanians out

Spain team

Despite making 10 changes, Spain completed a perfect Group B campaign to end plucky Albania’s tournament in Dusseldorf.

Ferran Torres curled home an early opener but despite Spain creating a glut of chances, and Albania piling forward in the second half, neither side were able to add to the scoring,

Spain will face one of the third-placed finishers in Group A, D, E or F in their Round of 16 match, on Sunday night (8pm BST).

Albania finished bottom of the group with a single point after Croatia were pegged back by Italy to draw 1-1 late in the other encounter.

Spain progress without having conceded a goal and having given every outfield player in the squad, and two keepers, tournament game time.

De La Fuente shuffles his pack

Having already ensured top spot in the group with two wins from two, Spain boss Luis De La Fuente made 10 changes from the side which overcame Italy in their second game, with only Aymeric Laporte retaining his place and Arsenal keeper David Raya handed a rare start in place of Unai Simon.

Just as they did against Italy and Croatia, Albania made a positive start but it was Mikel Merino who had the first effort at the other end as he saw a far-post header saved by Thomas Strakosha while Joselu headed over while in space on 11 minutes.

The deadlock was broken soon after when Laporte spread the ball forward to Dani Olmo who split the defence with a perfect pass for the onrushing Ferran Torres to stroke an angled effort in off the inside of the post on 13 minutes.

Olmo dragged a 20-yard drive wide and after the half-hour was denied by a last-ditch challenge after good approach play and cut-back by Jesus Navas.

Raya had a stroke of good fortune on his return to the side as he smashed an attempted clearance kick into the back of teammate Laporte, though the ball looped high enough for Raya to gather.

Ferran Torres stooped to plant a far-post header over the crossbar before the break and he and Olmo produced a couple of superb flicks in succession in the box before Albania scrambled the ball behind as Spain began to purr.

Joselu dragged wide and Mikel Merino blazed over from Alex Grimaldo’s fine cut-back from the left byline as the onslaught continued but Kristjan Asllani stung the palms of Raya with a fierce shot from just outside the box in the dying seconds of the first half as a reminder that Albania were not going away.

Pressure continues before Albania rally

After the break Joselu went close with an acrobatic near-post volley which flew past the upright but Spain’s failure to kill the game off left the door open for Albania, who came close when Armando Broja saw a first-time close-range lob attempt clawed behind by Raya while Asllani’s low drive from 20 yards was deflected past the post.

Asllani sent a dipping effort from outside the area narrowly past Raya’s far post inside the final 15 minutes but Spain sub Alvaro Morata almost put the game on ice as he superbly teed-up Olmo, who saw a shot deflected behind, while Morata nodded the subsequent corner over the bar.

Arber Hoxha made some space on the left with a stepover before blazing wildly over the bar in the closing stages while Broja’s toe-poke in a melee was caught by the full-stretch Raya in stoppage-time.

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.