Akanji strikes as Spain suffer Swiss bliss

Spain surrendered the lead of Group A2 as Switzerland earned a first H2H victory in 12 years, winning 2-1 at the Estadio La Romareda.

Luis Enrique’s men set out to, in usual style, dominate possession and try to pass their way through, but were struggling to create clear-cut chances. Perhaps the hosts’ most obvious option as an outright centre-forward, Álvaro Morata, was left on the bench, but Spain could’ve actually done with his aerial prowess in their own box as the visitors headed their way into the lead. Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji rose highest from a corner, directing his strike into the ground and bouncing it over Unai Simón, who was powerless to deny him.

The Spaniards’ toothlessness continued up until the break, with change needed in the second half to claw their way back into the game. It ultimately took the hosts less than 10 minutes after the restart to find a response, as Marco Asensio slid Jordi Alba in before the veteran full-back emphatically struck home the equaliser.

Five of Spain’s previous six wins had been accompanied by a clean sheet, but they looked defensive frail here as another corner put the Swiss almost immediately back in front. Akanji escaped his marker and flicked on at the near post, with Eric García unable to sort his feet out as the ball bounced off him and into the net while under pressure from Breel Embolo.

Enrique turned to his bench in an attempt to add impetus to his team, but Switzerland were up to the challenge. Villarreal starlet Yeremi Pino came closest to an equaliser, but his tame effort from close-range was tipped away by Yann Sommer. The Swiss earned just a second win of 2022, scoring more than once in a game for the first time this calendar year. Defeat for the Czech Republic in the other game in the group lifted Murat Yakin’s men off the bottom of the group, inflicting Spain’s first loss in their last nine games.

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