Football

Spain captain Sergio Ramos scores one penalty, gives up another

Despite scoring streak, Spain captain lets Morata take second penalty

Spain centre-back Sergio Ramos scored his seventh goal in his last eight appearances for La Furia Roja yesterday morning (Singapore time), and still found time to hand over penalty duties to goal-shy Alvaro Morata in a 3-0 win over Sweden.

Both Ramos and Morata found the net from the spot and substitute Mikel Oyarzabal grabbed his first goal as Spain stayed top of Group F in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Spain struggled to break down a determined Sweden defence at the Santiago Bernabeu until Ramos struck in the 64th minute, after Sebastian Larsson blocked Marco Asensio's cross with his hand.

Two late goals in two minutes then gave the score a deceptively comfortable look as Ramos deferred a second spot-kick to Morata, who had won the foul, before Oyarzabal curled in a third three minutes from time.

The result left Spain five points clear of closest challengers Sweden and Romania, with four wins out of four.

All this with coach Luis Enrique absent since before Spain's win over Malta in March due to a family emergency.

Replacing him in the dugout yesterday was assistant Robert Moreno.

The stand-in coach hailed captain Ramos, who is Spain's second most-capped player in history, behind only Iker Casillas.

Said Moreno: "He is the key leader in this team, and you saw that tonight.

"He is a real example to the young players, and it is a pleasure to have him involved with the national team."

Ramos' tally of 20 goals for his country makes him their 11th highest scorer and moved him just two goals away from Argentina legend Daniel Passarella as the most prolific defender in international football, according to Spanish newspaper Marca.

Perhaps more than his impressive scoring streak, Ramos earned plaudits for offering Morata the chance to improve his confidence in front of goal.

The Chelsea striker found the net just six times for Atletico Madrid since joining on loan in January.

Said the 26-year-old: "I did not even ask him (about the penalty) because Sergio always wants to put (in) all the possible goals.

"But he has made an incredible gesture. I thank him and he knows what I think of him."

Ramos, meanwhile, said he handed spot-kick duties to his former Real Madrid teammate to help him "recover his best mood and score goals".

He told Marca: "In the end, strikers live for goals and Morata is a killer.

"After taking the first, what better way than to pass one on to your teammate to recover his best mood and score goals.

THE COLLECTIVE

"The work and pride are collective. The result is what is important, not who scores."

The other key talking point from the match in Madrid was Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga starting his third straight match for Spain ahead of Manchester United rival David de Gea.

Explaining why he got the nod, Moreno said: "Kepa is in great form and he ended the season well, and that form has kept him in the team.

"Competition for places is good, as it stops you from thinking you are too good."

The Chelsea custodian, meanwhile, said he is unconcerned over speculation about who should be Spain's No.1.

He told Marca: "We are always surrounded by such controversies, but we must take it naturally.

"Of course, I understand that David is sad, we all train to play and then it is the decision of the coach, and it is up to you to respond well."

SELECTED RESULTS

Poland 4 Israel 0, Denmark 5 Georgia 1, Ireland 2 Gibraltar 0, North Macedonia 1 Austria 4, Ukraine 1 Luxembourg 0, Serbia 4 Lithuania 1, Faroe Islands 0 Norway 2

Football