Spain edges Norway 2-1 in first Euro 2020 qualifier
VALENCIA, Spain (AP) — Sergio Ramos’ penalty goal ensured Spain beat Norway 2-1 to start its European Championship qualifying campaign on Saturday.
The defender converted his spot kick in the “panenka” style — waiting for the goalkeeper to move before chipping the ball down the middle — in the 71st minute at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium.
Spain dominated the first half but only Rodrigo Moreno could convert his scoring chance in the 16th.
Norway equalized in the 65th when forward Joshua King netted a penalty kick after substitute Bjorn Johnsen was fouled by Inigo Martinez in the area.
But Ramos soon got his turn at the spot when Alvaro Morata poached a poor back pass by Harvard Nordtveit and was cut down in the box by goalkeeper Rune Jarstein.
Also in Group F, Sweden beat Romania 2-1, while Malta defeated the Faroe Islands 2-1.
Three-time champion Spain is the favorite to win the qualifying group.
“A new quest starts, a new objective, and there is no better way to do so that this,” Ramos said.
Despite having lost its previous two competitive matches, Spain has a record of five wins in seven matches under Luis Enrique since he took over after last year’s World Cup.
Spain broke through after Jordi Alba and Marco Asensio combined two quick passes down the left flank. Alba found striker Moreno alone at the six-yard box to sweep home a short cross.
Norway went close to equalizing when Markus Henriksen set up Tarik Elyounoussi in front of an open goal, only for his horrendous shot to go sideways instead of anywhere near the net.
Spain kept threatening to score a second goal, as Moreno and Martinez missed from close in, and Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein turned back efforts by Morata and Asensio before halftime.
Norway finally caused Spain consistent trouble after manager Lars Lagerback sent on forward Bjorn Johnsen, who won several high balls and provoked the penalty by Martinez while disputing a set piece.
Luis Enrique gave Sergio Canales and Jaime Mata their debuts for Spain as late substitutes.
“We should have won this match by a much bigger score, but we took the three points and are happy,” Luis Enrique said.