Euro 2024 Qualifying late roundup: Late Joselu brace sees Spain past Norway


Euro 2024 Qualifying late roundup: Late Joselu brace sees Spain past Norway

Dani Olmo is congratulated by his Spain teammates after opening the scoring against Norway
Dani Olmo is congratulated by his Spain teammates after opening the scoring against NorwayAFP
Despite some strong Norwegian resistance, Spain got their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign off to a good start with a 3-0 win on Saturday evening in Malaga that included two goals on debut for Joselu in just two minutes. Elsewhere, Wales left it late to grab a point in Croatia and 10-man Andorra were beaten 2-0 by Romania.

Spain 3 Norway 0

Spain’s bid for an eighth consecutive European Championships appearance began in promising fashion, as manager Luis de la Fuente’s debut triumph saw the Euro 2008 winners run out 3-0 victors over Norway via goals from Dani Olmo and Joselu.

With their heroes winless in three after a frustrating FIFA World Cup exit to Morocco, Spain fans descended on Estadio La Rosaleda eager to witness a fresh start under Luis de la Fuente.

And he got his tenure off to a flyer inside 15 minutes, when Alejandro Balde’s low ball into the box was cleverly turned in by Olmo for his sixth international goal.

The strike always had a feel of significance in a historical context too, with Spain boasting a perfect win record when scoring first in home Euro qualifiers since June 1995.

Some in attendance might have expected the floodgates to open immediately, but Norway were in no mood to roll over so early on, and they manufactured two clear-cut chances before the interval.

The first fell to captain Martin Odegaard, who jinked confidently onto his left foot before seeing a low shot blocked by Nacho.

Of the visiting players, however, it was Fredrik Aursnes who came closest to levelling before the break, producing a plush back-post volley that forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into an impressive reflex save.

The contest then morphed into a cagey affair after the interval, with neither team posing any significant threat until the closing stages, when Alexander Sorloth spurned Norway’s best chance of the night by directing a close-range volley off target.

That was Spain’s cue to wrap up the three points once and for all, and 32-year-old Joselu turned his long-awaited international debut into a fairytale night with two goals in as many minutes.

The veteran firstly peeled off to the back post, where he expertly headed back across Orjan Nyland and into the far corner, before rifling in from close range to add extra panache to a final scoreline that somewhat exaggerates the difference between the sides.

The result itself comes as no great surprise for Spain though, having long been favourites to take first place in Group A.

Defeat, meanwhile, reminded Norway that they are likely to be in an almighty scrap for the second qualifying spot. Both teams next take to the field on Tuesday evening, with La Furia Roja travelling to joint-leaders Scotland and the Lions taking on Georgia.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Joselu (Spain)

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Croatia 1 Wales 1

Wales ensured they made a positive start to their qualifying campaign, as Nathan Broadhead scored a 93rd minute equaliser on his international debut to rescue a 1-1 draw against Croatia in Split.

For a Wales side who were in the midst of their longest winless run since 2001 prior to tonight, a strong start would’ve been high on the agenda.

Danny Ward was largely to thank for the fact they didn’t fall behind early, beating away an Andrej Kramaric effort as Croatian pressure began to build on the Welsh goal.

Ivan Perisic came even closer for the hosts when he flashed an effort wide of the target, before he did eventually break Welsh resistance when his deflected strike nestled in the net, only for the referee to pull it back for a foul in the build-up and hand Wales a reprieve.

Wales failed to take advantage though, as almost straight from the restart Croatia won the ball back and after springing a swift counter, Kramaric bamboozled Neco Williams before firing home beyond a desperate Ward dive.

Harry Wilson spearheaded the Welsh response, but his unusually wayward free-kick ensured Rob Page’s side trailed at the break.

The tide certainly shifted after the interval, with the visitors getting on the front foot and posing much more of a threat.

Daniel James spurned his side's best opportunity for an equaliser, firing wide at the near post after being found in space in the area by Harry Wilson.

A triple change from Page shortly after the hour mark signalled his intent, but when Williams fired over from the edge of the area, there was a growing sense it wouldn’t be Wales’ night.

It looked set to prove that way too, but one of Page’s substitutes, Broadhead, popped up at the back post to prod home a precious equaliser from Connor Roberts’ long throw for Wales and send the Red Wall into absolute bedlam.

A point is certainly a respectable result for the Dragons in what is the toughest test Group D has to offer, but it’s undoubtedly disappointing for Croatia, who missed the chance to start their qualification campaign with three points.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Andrej Kramaric (Croatia)

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Andorra 0 Romania 2

A close-range header from Dennis Man and a second-half strike from Denis Alibec gave Romania a dominant win in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign against an Andorra side that looked helpless throughout the contest at the Estadi Nacional.

Romania didn’t waste time in taking control of the game and monopolised possession within the opening minutes, forcing Andorra to sit back and rely on counterattacks.

The visitors came close to opening the scoring in the 13th minute through Alibec, who took advantage of a deflection and a rebound to fire a shot from inside the box, but his effort went wide.

Led by the dangerous runs of Olimpiu Morutan and Nicolae Stanciu, Romania kept moving the ball around in the final third, while Andorra barely moved past the halfway line, showing an alarming lack of ideas, which was expected as one of the lowest-ranked teams in the UEFA region.

Romania finally broke the deadlock in the 30th minute, and Alibec was at the centre of the play once again.

The striker nodded a corner kick onto the crossbar, and the ball bounced to Man, who set up Alibec for an easy finish from close range.

However, the referee ruled the goal out due to an offside from the Farul Constanta forward.

Romania finally scored the opening goal in the 35th minute through Man, who netted with a header from close range following a cross from Morutan.

The first half ended with a one-goal advantage for the visitors - a completely deserved lead considering how the game had unfolded.

Andorra opened the second half with a half-chance via Alex Martinez, but his attempt was saved effortlessly by Ionuț Andrei Radu. However, that was nothing more than an outlier, and the visitors doubled their lead just a few minutes into the second half.

Razvan Marin showed his vision and quality with a lovely through ball that found Alibec, and the striker finished the play with a composed finish from the edge of the box.

To make matters worse for Andorra, Marc Rebes was sent off in the 61st minute after receiving two bookings in a short three-minute span.

Romania were in complete control the rest of the way and cruised to victory in the final stages of the contest, though the fact that Andorra struggled to pose a threat certainly benefited them.

The win marks a strong start for Eduard Iordănescu’s men, but at the same time, these are three points Romania deemed necessary for their qualifying chances.

Andorra, on the other hand, might feel relatively content with the narrow margin of defeat, but their path will only become tougher with a scheduled trip to Kosovo in their upcoming match.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Denis Alibec (Romania)

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