Spain were forced to wait until the 87th minute for their decisive goal against Czech Republic in Group D action on Monday.
Spain kicked off their defence against the 1976 winners with the reigning champions opting to start Manchester United star David de Gea in goal while Manchester City playmaker David Silva won his 100th cap.
Vicente del Bosque’s side, on an eight-game competitive winning streak, dominated the early proceedings in Toulouse, but had nothing to show for their brilliant first-half display after meeting Petr Cech in fine form. The Arsenal number one denied La Roja on four occasions, including two fine stops to thwart Spain number seven Alvaro Morata.
Much of Spain’s first half dominance was due to the display by veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta. He completed 100% of his take-ons to add to his 95% pass accuracy. The Barca star created three chances and tested Cech with one shot but he was unable to break the deadlock. Such was the extent of the Spanish dominance, the Czech side hardly, if ever, ventured into the Spanish half.
The second half kicked off much like the first but Jordi Alba failed to take advantage of some panic-stricken defence and his shot towards an empty net was blocked by a wall of white shirts.
In the 56th minute, the Czechs failed to take advantage of a rare foray in the Spanish half as Hubnik, who was unmarked inside the box, fluffed his shot as De Gea collect easily.
Just three minutes later, Iniesta called Cech into action but again the Arsenal goalkeeper was more than up to the task.
Aritz Aduriz was sent just after the hour mark to replace Morata as Del Bosque attempted to find the right personnel to secure the vital goal that would give the Spaniards the win.
Alba missed another chase in the 69th minute as tension, both on the field and in the stadium, raised to boiling point. Silva flashed his effort wide after another sustained period of pressure; at this point all outfield Spain players were within 30 metres of Cech’s goals such was the dominance of possession and territory.
As the match headed into the last 10 minutes, honours remained even despite Spain having had 67% of the ball and 16 attempts at goal. Czech Republic continued their spirited defence and nullified every half chance that Del Bosque’s side created, that was until Gerard Pique headed his side in front.
The Barcelona defender ghosted in at the far post after a brilliant cross from Iniesta and settled the tie with just three minutes remaining on the clock.
De Gea prevented Spain going down the same route as England did on Saturday as he reacted sharply to deny Darida and Czech Republic an equaliser.
Photo: Vincent Kessler/Reuters