Spain confirmed their qualification for the 2016 European Cup Championship in France with a hard fought 1-0 away win over Ukraine on Monday.
Mario Gaspar’s debut goal inside the opening 20 minutes of the game was all the visitors needed to secure maximum points in Ukraine and claim group C top spot that ensured their qualification for the European Cup championship in France next year.
The Chelsea midfielder was given the captain’s armband to mark his 100th appearance for La Roja, in what was an all-changed XI named by Vicente del Bosque.
Elsewhere, late call-ups Mario Gaspar and Xabier Etxeita were handed their international debuts, while Kiev marked Thiago Alcantara’s first cap in over a year.
Ukraine, on the other hand, could have still achieved a runners-up spot in Group C, providing they bettered Slovakia’s result against Luxembourg but the Slovaks did well to secure a vital 4-2 away win at the Stade Josy Barthel.
In a first half devoid of much life, Spain took advantage of a rare opening through Mario, who headed Thiago Alcantara’s ball across goal into an empty net.
The Celta Vigo star was involved again moments later as he slipped Fabregas in behind, yet the former Barcelona man’s penalty was easily saved by Andriy Pyatov.
Ukraine responded moments later only to be denied by Manchester United goal keeper David De Gea who superbly kept out Artem Kravets and Ruslan Rotan’s successive close range efforts.
Seeking a direct ticket to next summer’s tournament in France, Ukraine pressed hard for an equalizer after the break and Andriy Yarmolenko came within inches of doing so in the 51st minute when his shot struck the post.
Spain’s responded well four minutes later and should have been two nil up after San José fired into net a rebound that was disallowed following the referee’s call for a foul seconds before the goal.
There was almost some late magic for Ukraine, with Taras Stepanenko in position to draw level, but his volley went searing over De Gea’s crossbar in the 85th minute. Four minutes later Serhiy Rybalka had a look at goasl, but De Gea was there to make the diving stop to ensure the 1-0 final.