Morata scores as Spain beat Croatia in thrill ride to arrive at quarters


Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal scored in overtime as Spain held off an interesting Croatian fightback to win 5-3 during a pulsating Euro 2020 last 16 match in Copenhagen for an area within the quarter-finals.

Spain gifted Croatia a bizarre own-goal within the half then threw away a 3-1 lead but the much-maligned Morata made it 4-3 when he controlled a cross with one deft touch within the 100th minute and sent an attempt past goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic at the Parken Stadium.

Oyarzabal doubled the lead three minutes later to form it the highest-scoring European Championship match since the primary game of the inaugural edition in 1960.

Spain looked firmly on top of things when Unai Simon did not control Pedri’s backpass from near midfield within the 20th minute and watched helplessly because the ball bounced over his foot and into the internet to place Croatia ahead.

The Spaniards drew level within the 38th minute following sustained pressure that was rewarded when Livakovic swatted Jose Gaya’s shot to the feet of Pablo Sarabia who fired home.

The three-time European champions continued to make changes and Cesar Azpilicueta notched a well-timed header after connecting with a cross from Ferran Torres within the 57th minute.

Torres got Spain’s third within the 77th minute.

In a remarkable comeback, Mislav Orsic clawed a goal back for the planet Cup semi-finalists within the 85th minute after a goalmouth scramble before Mario Pasilic headed Croatia’s equalizer in stoppage time.

Spain will head to Saint Peters­burg for a quarter-final against France or Switzerland on Friday despite the town posting a replacement pandemic high for daily virus deaths.

Russia’s tournament organizers said on Monday the fixture will “take place at the Krestovsky Stadium as planned”.

Spectator numbers are capped at the half but are still drawing upwards of 26,000 people.

On Sunday, Thorgan Hazard scored the sole goal of the sport as Belgium held Cristiano Ronaldo scoreless and defeated defending champions Portugal in Seville to advance to the quarter-finals.

Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates were hoping to defend the trophy they won in Paris five years ago but they might not recover after the lesser heralded of the Hazard brothers smashed home just before half-time and Belgium held out for a 1-0 victory.

Hazard scored the winning goal within the 42nd minute with a swerving shot from outside the world that left Portugal, goalkeeper, Rui Patricio is wrong-footed and late to swat the ball away.

The meeting between the reigning champions and therefore the world’s top-ranked team was hotly anticipated but it never lived up to expectations.

Belgium won’t care as they advance to a different exciting tie, a mouth-watering quarter-final against Italy in Munich on Friday.

“I just tried my luck,” said Borussia Dortmund winger Hazard. “It wasn’t easy but to travel all the way during a tournament you’ve got to suffer sometimes .”

It remains to be seen if their captain, Kevin De Bruyne, is going to be fit to face Italy after he was forced off early within the last half feeling the consequences of an earlier Joao Palhinha challenge that left him with an injured ankle.

Coach Roberto Martinez also saw skipper Eden Hazard come off late on with a hamstring problem.

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