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An Alvaro Morata strike was not enough for victory as Spain began their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Greece in Granada on Thursday
Morata’s stylish volley put Spain ahead in the first half of a Group B clash they dominated with 79.4 per cent of the possession before the break.
But Greece levelled when Anastasios Bakasetas converted from the penalty spot four minutes before the hour mark after Inigo Martínez fouled Giorgos Masouras inside the area.
And although Luis Enrique’s side enjoyed the bulk of the chances in the remainder of the game, they were unable to find a winner in an underwhelming start to the campaign.
After a sluggish start, La Roja sparked into life when Dani Olmo rattled the crossbar with a long-range curling effort and, moments later, they were ahead.
Koke showed his guile to cleverly dink the ball over the Greek defence to Morata, who controlled on his chest before crisply striking a fine volley beyond Odisseas Vlachodimos.
Morata went close again early in the second half when his shot hit the side-netting, but Greece soon equalised.
Martinez caught Masouras after a sliding clearance and Bakasetas smashed the resulting spot-kick high down the middle of the goal.
Spain rallied and Morata got on the end of a Ferran Torres cross but was unable to make his header count, nodding straight into the ground, before Jose Gaya teased a low dangerous cross into the box which Mikel Oyarzabal could not convert.
The hosts continued to pile on the pressure late on but were unable to find a way past the resolute visiting defence, their joy evident at the final whistle.
What does it mean? La Roja left frustrated
Spain have now not lost in 64 World Cup qualifiers (W50 D14) stretching back to March 1993.
But that run will provide only a crumb of comfort on what was a frustrating night for Luis Enrique as his side managed just two shots on target despite playing 920 passes to Greece’s 235.
With two more qualifies coming up this month, Spain need to find more cutting edge when teams put down the shutters.
Morata shows his class
Since 2004, only David Silva (eight), David Villa (eight) and Fernando Torres (seven) have scored more goals in World Cup qualifiers for Spain than Morata’s six.
The striker provided the game’s true moment of quality and impressed throughout.
Misery for Martinez
Quite what was going through Martinez’s mind when he left his studs on Masouras while clearing the ball, only he will know.
It was his only foul after replacing Sergio Ramos at half-time, but it proved to be a very costly one as Greece scored from their sole shot in the entire contest.
Spain head to Georgia on Sunday for their next qualifying match, while Greece have an international friendly at home to Honduras on the same day.
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