2020 European Championship Qualifying, Group Stage
  • Álvaro Morata (31', 73')

Spain dedicate Malta win to absent manager Luis Enrique

Spain's players dedicated their 2-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Malta on Tuesday to their coach Luis Enrique who had to miss the game due to an urgent family matter.

The Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) said earlier on Tuesday that Luis Enrique would miss the game "for family reasons of an urgent nature," without giving any further details.

Assistant coach Robert Moreno took charge of the team for the match, which Spain won with two goals from Alvaro Morata to move top of Group F with six points after two games.

"We always want to win every game but today we had an extra motivation, we wanted to win for our coach, who we support until the end," said Morata.

Midfielder Iker Muniain added: "It was a very difficult game and we dedicate this victory to the boss and his family, we did as best as we could and this goes out to him."

Stand-in coach Moreno has worked alongside Luis Enrique since 2011, helping coach AS Roma, Celta Vigo and Barcelona, but he had never taken charge of a game on his own before.

"It's the worst day of my career, we're going to try and make sure that everything goes well and we send him all our strength," Moreno said.

"People were congratulating me but there was nothing to celebrate. This is a situation which should never have happened but knowing Luis Enrique we had to be as professional as possible and I tried to transmit the same message as he would.

"I wasn't Robert Moreno, I was a representative of Luis Enrique."

Malta were happy to sit back on the edge of their area and defend for most of the game, but the visitors found a way through in the 31st minute when Morata latched onto a long ball and sent his shot squirming under goalkeeper Henry Bonello.

The Atletico Madrid striker sealed Spain's victory with another goal in the 73rd, drifting free of his marker to comfortably head in a perfectly-weighted cross from substitute Jesus Navas.

After two games Spain lead Group F with six points, while Sweden are second on four after drawing 3-3 away to Norway, who have one point. Malta are level on three points with third-placed Romania, while the pointless Faroe islands are bottom.