Spain stifled as Swedes grind out grim 0-0 draw
FOOTBALL By Reuters | June 15th 2021
Spain tried to pass Sweden into oblivion in their Euro 2020 opener on Monday but had to settle for a 0-0 draw as they were let down by poor finishing and might have even lost had it not been for a glaring miss by opposing striker Marcus Berg.
Alvaro Morata spurned Spain's best opening in a dominant first half display from Luis Enrique's side on a scorching evening at Seville's La Cartuja stadium in Group E when he missed the target from inside the area after a defensive slip.
But Sweden's Berg was equally wasteful when he somehow missed the target after a sensational piece of skill and cross from fellow forward Alexander Isak, who had manoeuvred his way past four Spain defenders to put the chance on a plate.
Spain ran out of steam in the second half before rallying again late on but still failed to beat Sweden keeper Robin Olsen, who thwarted substitute Gerard Moreno in stoppage time.
This was a deeply frustrating start to the tournament for three-time European champions Spain, who broke a competition record for the most passes in the first half while ending the game with 85% possession and 917 passes, according to Opta.
Both sides had their tournament preparations rocked by two COVID-19 positives each but Spain were hit hardest as captain Sergio Busquets missed the game and the remaining players had to train individually for the next five days.
Busquets' absence left Spain with no members of their 2010 World Cup winning side on the pitch. However, Luis Enrique had challenged his young side to lead themselves and they took the game to Sweden with their usual slick passing game and caused a fair amount of danger.
Teenager Pedri, a surprise starter over the far more experienced Thiago Alcantara and Fabian Ruiz, brought a sense of flair and excitement to their game while Dani Olmo was a handful for the Swedes down both flanks and in the box.
Olmo skied an early opportunity then forced Olsen into two good saves with a low header and a strike from distance while he also sent a through ball to Koke, who hammered over the bar.
The best chance, though, fell to Morata who failed to cash in on a defensive slip by Sweden's Marcus Danielson when he slotted well wide of goal with only Olsen to beat.
Sweden had offered very little going forward but had a great chance to score late in the half when Isak won a scrap with Aymeric Laporte and went for goal, his wayward shot hitting Marcos Llorente and then striking the near post.
They were left agonising over a second big chance going to waste when Berg missed the target from point-blank range.
But when the full time whistle came, Sweden revelled in ruining Spain's party, keeper Olsen punching the air and the grins of their numerous travelling supporters contrasting with the frustrated faces of their red-shirted hosts.
Chelsea star Alonso explains why he'll no longer take the knee