Nations League setbacks for Spain, Germany

15 Oct 2020


COLOGNE: Switzerland’s Mario Gavranovic (C) scores a goal past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer during their UEFA Nations League match.—AP
COLOGNE: Switzerland’s Mario Gavranovic (C) scores a goal past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer during their UEFA Nations League match.—AP

MADRID: Spain and Germany both had setbacks in the Nations League on Tuesday, with Spain losing to Ukraine for the first time ever and Germany being held to a draw by last-placed Switzerland.

Spain kept the group lead despite a 1-0 loss in Kiev in a match attended by about 15,000 fans. Germany went two goals down in the first 30 minutes and couldnt manage more than a 3-3 draw against the Swiss in Cologne.

Spain have seven points from four matches, one point more than Germany and Ukraine, followed by Switzerland with two points in Group 4 of League A.

In the final round in November, Spain visit Switzerland and then host Germany. Ukraine visit Germany and Switzerland.

Germany fought back to draw with Switzerland after another error-strewn performance.

Mario Gavranovic scored twice for the visitors, who led 2-1 at halftime after capitalising on sloppy defending and wayward passes by the hosts. The Swiss also were ahead 3-2 by the 57th minute before Serge Gnabry’s equaliser sealed the scoring in the 60th.

“If you lead three times, you can win the game,” Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer said. “We played a very good first half, forced German mistakes and were efficient, which we were not in recent matches. In the end, they are still Germany. Too bad the result will not help us, with Ukraine having won. We really wanted to beat Germany tonight.”

The game was played without fans due to rising coronavirus infections in the area.

Viktor Tsygankov scored shortly after coming off the bench in the second half to give Ukraine their first-ever victory over La Roja.

The nearly 15,000 fans who were allowed entry to the Kiev Olympic Stadium celebrated loudly as Tsygankov struck the net from outside the area after a through-ball by captain Andriy Yarmolenko completing a counterattack in the 76th minute.

It was Ukraine’s first goal against Spain in 17 years. Tsygankov had entered the match about 10 minutes earlier.

“We had lost three games in a row and we owed an apology to our fans, Tsygankov said. “We missed them so much and we are happy to have given them a reason to celebrate tonight.”

Young sensations Ansu Fati and Adama Traore, touted as the future of Spain’s national team, were together in the starting line-up for the first time but couldn’t help Spain find the net.

“They basically had one proper chance and scored it,” Spain midfielder Rodri said of Ukraine. “These are errors we need to learn from. It certainly wasn’t in our plans to lose here but we came to Kiev knowing it was a tough place to get a result.”

Ukraine goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan made several key saves to keep Spain scoreless for the first time in a Nations League match.

“We played with heart and absolute commitment,” Bushchan said. “We had to defend a lot and wait for our chance. Unfortunately, we can’t play from the position of strength against such top teams as Spain.”

Malta defeated Latvia 1-0 for its first away victory since 2013, with Steve Borg’s winning goal scored seven minutes into second-half injury time.

San Marino earned their first point since 2014 with a 0-0 draw at Liechtenstein, while the Faroe Islands defeated Andorra 2-0 and Luxembourg won 2-1 at Montenegro.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2020