Spain 2-2 Morocco: Late Aspas goal helps scrape top spot in World Cup group despite battling to draw against Atlas Lions
Spain will take on Russia in the last 16 at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday afternoon
Spain scraped through to the last 16 of the World Cup even though they could only manage a 2-2 draw at the hands of Morocco in a high-octane contest at Kaliningrad.
Iago Aspas’ stoppage-time ensured the 2010 winners would just about top the group and avoid a last 16 clash with Uruguay after Portugal could only manage a draw against Iran.
Youssef En-Nesyri’s bullet header ten minutes from time had seemingly earned Hervé Renard’s men an unlikely victory, but the 2010 winners’ blushes were spared right at the death.
Earlier, Khalid Boutaib took advantage of some woeful defending by Spain to give the Atlas Lions a shock lead but Isco’s emphatic finish levelled the game up in a game which saw Gerard Pique and Younes Belhanda escape red cards for nasty tackles.
The game had a staggering 22 fouls and the tone was first set in the sixth minute with handbags between Sergio Ramos and Nordin Amrabat. Moments later, Gerard Pique was perhaps fortunate to escape a sending off for a two-footed challenge on Boutaib.
However, the Morocco forward shook this off on 14 minutes to give his nation a surprise lead – sliding the ball through David De Gea’s legs after latching onto a mix-up on the halfway line between Ramos and Andres Iniesta.
But Isco made it 1-1 within five minutes after slamming the ball into the roof of the net – finishing off a slick move involving Iniesta and Diego Costa.
Boutaib nearly restored Morocco’s lead after being put through by a quick throw-in but De Gea was equal to the effort this time.
It was then Spain’s turn to feel aggrieved at an opponent escaping a red card when Belhanda stamped on Iniesta but referee Ravshan Irmatov took no action.
The frenetic pace continued into the second-half as both sides threw everything in search of a winner.
And Amrabat came incredibly close to scoring but his brilliant long-range shot rattled the crossbar.
Isco then had a header cleared off the line by Romain Saiss before Gerard Pique headed narrowly wide from the resulting corner.
Morocco then re-took the lead when substitute En-Nesyri powerfully headed beyond De Gea to put them seemingly on course for the three points.
But in added time Aspas cleverly back-heeled a cross from the right in the second minute of time added on to ensure both sides shared the spoils in what was an very bad-tempered game at points.
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