Spain scrape win over Georgia with late Dani Olmo strike
Luis Enrique’s side leave it late to pick up first win of World Cup qualifying campaign
Dani Olmo celebrates after scoring a late winner for Spain in their World Cup qualifier against Georgia at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi. Photograph: Levan Verdzeuli/Getty Images
Georgia 1 Spain 2
Spain striker Dani Olmo snatched a 2-1 win away to Georgia in their World Cup qualifier on Sunday with a stoppage-time strike from outside the area to kick-start his side’s efforts to qualify for Qatar 2022 after a sluggish start.
Georgia, ranked 89th in the world, 83 places below Spain, thrilled the 15,000 fans in the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena when 20-year-old winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia fired them ahead two minutes before half-time after they coasted past the defence.
Spain were on course for their first defeat in a World Cup qualifier in 28 years until Manchester City’s Ferran Torres levelled in the 56th minute, sliding in to send a Jordi Alba cross into the roof of the net after Alvaro Morata had failed to connect with the ball.
Luis Enrique’s side pressed for a winner right until the end and finally found one when RB Leipzig player Olmo let fly from long range and although goalkeeper Giorgi Loria got a hand to the shot it dropped just under the crossbar and into the net.
Georgia’s Levan Shengelia was then sent off moments before the final whistle blew to signal a first victory for Spain in Group B after they drew 1-1 at home to Greece last Thursday.
“Our opponents usually sit very deep against us because we like to have the ball and we need to work more on opening up defences like this and we knew we just had to try and get the win by any means possible,” said Torres.
“We knew we’d have to suffer today. We had the fans against us, although it was beautiful to play in front of a crowd again. The important thing is we worked hard until the end and got the three points.”
The 2010 World Cup winners left captain Sergio Ramos out of the team after he only completed 45 minutes against Greece, while defender Pedro Porro made his international debut and youngsters Pedri and Bryan Gil earned their first starts after appearing as substitutes in the draw with Greece.
As expected, Spain monopolised possession but had little to show for it in the first half despite having 75 per cent of the ball and making 400 passes, managing one shot on target when Ferran found a gap in Georgia’s crowded defence but only tested keeper Loria.
Georgia then crafted a spectacular team move to take the lead, Kvaratskhelia controlling a through ball from Otar Kiteishvili before confidently slotting into the far bottom corner beyond the reach of Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon.
Luis Enrique reacted immediately after the break by introducing Olmo and defender Inigo Martinez, while the experienced Thiago Alcantara came on moments before they drew level.
Spain were far more direct after the break but still struggled to negotiate their way past Georgia’s disciplined defence, only getting the goal they craved when Olmo took matters into his own hands with his long-distance strike.