Euro 2020 Qualifiers, Romania 1-2 Spain: 5 Talking Points
Kepa Arrizabalaga's stoppage-time save proved key as ten-man Spain held firm to maintain their 100% start to their Euro 2020 qualification campaign in Group F, beating Romania 2-1 on Thursday evening.
Goals from Sergio Ramos and Paco Alcacer gifted La Roja all three points, despite a spirited second-half response from their hosts: with substitute striker Florin Andone halving the deficit just three minutes after coming on.
They were fortunate to still have a chance of snatching a result, after a string of excellent saves by goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu in a first-half packed with Spain creating chances galore. The 33-year-old was thoroughly kept busy, making eight stops throughout and was helpless to stop either goal by their visitors.
Spain will hope for a more clinical display and same result in their upcoming fixture, as they host a winless Faroe Islands on Sunday - who were thumped 4-0 by Sweden tonight elsewhere in the group's other fixtures.
Other results see Romania drop down into fourth after victories for Norway and the aforementioned Swedes, so there's plenty to play for as qualifiers continue to intensify before the final round in late November. With that in mind, here's a look at five talking points from a frantic finish to what should have been a comfortable away victory.
#5 Ramos embraces his villainous role as usual
Sergio Ramos could have scored before he eventually did, seeing his headed close-range effort tipped over the crossbar by an inspired Tatarusanu. However, he atoned for that miss with a composed penalty finish before the half-hour mark and was booked for his celebration, which only intensified persistent booing from disgruntled Romanian supporters in the 33-year-old's direction whenever he touched the ball.
Rather than get flustered in the immediate aftermath, the captain embraced his role as pantomime villain even more with a yellow card hanging over his head before regularly seeking touches out from the back. He recorded 114 touches, 97 passes completed (95% success), four duels won, three clearances and completed one tackle over the 90 minutes.
Defensively, the Real Madrid defender has often been a suspect and again that was the case here. His role in Romania's goal didn't make for pleasant viewing, beaten to the ball in the box by substitute Florin Andone, who headed beyond Kepa to halve the deficit.
His reckless tackling style almost got him into trouble on a counter-attack, though instead he watched helplessly as centre-back partner Diego Llorente was sent off for a cynical last man challenge on an onrushing George Puscas just outside the box. If not already booked or instead more assured in his attempted tackle, that situation would have been easily avoided.
Fortunately for them, their numerical disadvantage only lasted ten minutes and Romania failed to capitalise as Spain survived a spirited fightback late on to continue their 13-match Euro qualifying winning run.