by JAMES LING
Spain 1-0 Czech Republic, Group D
Gerard Pique stepped up to save Spain’s blushes three minutes from time to get the reigning champions Euros defence off with a win.
Heading into the tournament, many were wondering which Spain will turn up to the Euros this year. Would it be the mesmerising Euro 2012 winners? Or would it be the lacklustre side that were knocked out in the group stages in Brazil two years ago.
And with the Spanish looking to win their third European Championship in a row, manager Vicente Del Bosque rung the changes by dropping big names such as Diego Costa, Fernando Torres, Pedro and Juan Mata in favour of Aduriz, Nolito and Alvaro Morata.
Spain’s new look strike force were left frustrated by a well organised Czech Republic side for large periods of the game.
The game played out as expected with Spain dominating possession and the Czechs happy to sit deep and defend.
Spain had the early chances in the game. Juventus striker Morata had the first real chance to open the scoring with David Silva whipping the ball in with Morata only being denied by a well positioned Petr Cech.
Morata missed a few chances to put Spain ahead, with Spain becoming frustrated with the inform Petr Cech, who denied Silva in the 39th minute at the near post after Juanfran played him in with a cute pass.
After the break, the Czech Republic had two golden opportunities to take the lead with Hubnik getting on the end of a well placed free kick to only be denied by De Gea -who started despite allegations of his private life- who saved comfortably.
The biggest scare of the game came from Theodor Gebre Sellasie saw his header cleared from under the crossbar by Cesc Fabregas.
Spain replaced Morata with Aduriz who went for the spectacular and attempted an overhead kick but his shot ultimately went wide of the mark.
With time running out and only three minutes from time, Barcelona centre back Gerard Pique got on the end of Iniesta’s lightly weighted cross giving Spain the lead.
The Czech’s still had one more opportunity in added time, Vladimir Darida came close to rescuing a point but De Gea blocked his volley from 10 yards out.