Spain left it late before edging out Czech Republic 1-0 in Monday’s Euro Cup match in France.
After failing to break down a stubborn Czech side, it was left to defender Gerard Pique to head home an Indres Iniesta cross in the 87th minute and with it earned Spain three vital points.
Before that goal came, the Spanish side had thrown everything into the match with David Silva and Jordi Alba coming close on more than one occasion.
The Czech Republic did well to defend in the match as they also created their own chances. Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea was called to make a close-range save mid-way in the second half as he denied Vladimir Darida by blocking his volley from close range.
Then Theodor Gebre’s header was cleared off the line by Cesc Fabregas. The Spanish side was coming into this match as favourites having beaten their opponents four times previously and were clearly the better side enjoying great possession.
But the possession proved difficult to turn into goals as a stubborn Czech Republic side defended in huge numbers and will be disappointed not to have got anything from the match.
In Lyon, Italy got off their 2016 campaign on a positive note after humbling fancied Belgium 2-0 in another match played on Monday night.
The Italians were lifted by goals from Graziano Pelle and Emanuele Giaccherini. Belgium came into the match tipped to cause an upset given their recent form but it was their opponents who were quick to settle and opened the scores in the 32nd minute when Giaccherini sent home Leonardo Bonucci’s well-taken pass. The Italians had to wait until injury time to extend their win, this time, Pelle volleying home the winner.
Despite their pedigree going into this match, the Belgians simply did not rise up and were wasteful in front of goal. Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi simply could not convert the chances which came their way.
Origi will, however, be forgiven as this was his first competitive match since he suffered an ankle injury while playing for Liverpool two months ago.
In Paris, Republic of Ireland was less than twenty minutes away from a famous victory against Sweden before Ciaran Clark scored an own goal to ensure the match ended level 1-1.
The Republic of Ireland had taken a deserved lead in the 48th minute and looked set to upset their opponents. However, it was not to be as a late surge by the Swedes ensured that they got something from the match.