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>Asensio shines brightest as Spain humiliateCroatia with thumpingwin Onyour Marc game under Luis Enrique – 2-1

S PAIN showed their destroyingWorld Cup runners- up Croatia 6-0 yesterday to hand the visitors their biggest ever defeat and take control of their Nations League group. Marco Asensio scored a beauty and was heavily involved in another four for Luis Enrique’s side, who followed up their win over England with a comfortable victory. Midfielder Saul Niguez scored in his home city of Elche by heading home midway through the first half, giving Spain the lead against the run of play after Croatia had made a bright start and missed two good chances. The hosts soon increased their lead with two thumping strikes fromAsensio, the second of which was given as an own goal to Croatia goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic as it bounced off him after crashing against the crossbar. RodrigoMoreno completed a fine teammove after the interval before captain Sergio Ramos headed the fifth while a strike from Isco saw Spain become the first team to score six against Croatia as they charged top of League A, Group 4 on six points. It was also the second time this year that Spain have scored six goals against World Cup runners- up, following their 6-1 win over 2014 finalists Argentina inMarch. Spain were in a confident mood after winning their first remarkable potential under new coach Luis Enrique by

phase, which is a challenge we have set ourselves,” added Asensio. A baffled Zlatko Dalic acknowledged his Croatia side were not “a shadow of the team” who reached theWorld Cup final in July. “We were very good in the first 20 minutes, we had three clear chances, but after that we vanished from the pitch,” Dalic said. “We were not even a shadow of the team from before. “The best thing we can do is congratulate Spain. It’s not easy for us to accept conceding so many goals, but we have to draw some conclusions. “After their first and second goals went in, we started losing

grip and Spain gained momentum, finding it easier to get into our box. “We didn’t have the solutions. While we played as a team everything worked, but as soon as we stopped playing like that, it was over. “After their first goal, we weren’t as focused as we were before it. We tried to do things too quickly, we started to abandon our game and you can’t do that against Spain “I wasn’t able to motivate anyone during halftime,” Dalic added. “We have to learn from a defeat like this because we’ve seen what happens when we play as a team and what happens when we don’t,” he concluded” – Agencies

away to England – in their Nations League opener on Saturday and once they scored the floodgates opened and Croatia were left chasing shadows. “We played a spectacular game and rounded off a brilliant week. We needed to recuperate the feelings we had before, we’ve played two great games,” said goalscorer Asensio. To reach the Nations League finals next June, Spain need just two points from their remaining two games, at home to England and away to Croatia. “We’ve played two teams that went very far in theWorld Cup and these victories are very important to reach the final

LUISENRIQUE described it as the perfect start after Spainbackedup their win over England with a 6-0 demolition of Croatia yesterday. “It would be very easy to say that this is my Spain, generating many chances and conceding few goals, but the truth is that I am changing things very fast,” Luis Enrique said. “This week everything was perfect.” Asensiowas the star of the show but Saul Niguez, so impressiveagainst England, shoneagain, alongside the talented 23-year-oldDani Ceballos in midfield. Spain were barely rec- LuisEnrique hails the perfect start

England’sMarcus Rashford (left) takes a freekick during yesterday’s international football friendly against Switzerland at the King Power stadium in Leicester. – REUTERSPIX

ognisable from the team that failed to break down Russia in the last 16 but it should also be said they put six past Argentina, under Julen Lopetegui, inMarch. There is work still to do. “Comparisons with the World Cup and tonight do not make sense,” Luis Enrique said.

“Today we were very effective and everything went wonderfully well. “Theyhadanearly chance, they didn’t take it and then we played brilliantly and scored some great goals.” Croatia’s Ivan Santini was guilty of missing early on but once Spain pulled ahead, the visitors crum- bled. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, so dominant at the World Cup, never took control while defen- sively, without Dejan Lovren, the mistakes kept coming. “We cannot cry about it, we have to improve,” coach Zlatko Dalic said. “That is not a solution against Spain,whoplayswell at home,who likes to dominate the ball. After the second goal, the match was over for us.” – AFP

Rashfordgets Englandback towinningways

season,” he added of the first-half display. “It was a tall order to ask them to play against an excellent Switzerland side, they kept the ball well and we had to chase too much. There was plenty of room for improvement.” Southgate insisted after being outplayed for the majority of a 2-1 defeat by Spain in his side’s inaugural Nations League encounter on Saturday that England must persist with his intention to improve on playing out from the back under pressure. However, it nearly cost the hosts the opening goal twice in a matter of seconds inside the first 10 minutes. Jack Butland misplaced a pass which rolled dangerously close to his own goal, andwhen the goalkeeper’s next clearance to James Tarkowski was cut out by the Swiss high press, Xherdan Shaqiri should have scored rather than striking the post on his weaker right foot.

Southgate has lamented England’s failure to produce midfielders of the calibre that Croatia and Spain possess. But his side, containing nine changes from the weekend, was struggling even to cope with the Swiss’ passing and movement as the visitors en- joyed nearly 65% possession before the break. Amore positive start to the second period for the hosts was rewarded with the only goal on 54 minutes when KyleWalker’s hanging cross to the back post was swept home by Rashford for his fifth international goal. The importance of holding on for a morale- boosting win for Southgate was shown as he in- troduced a host of regular starters, including captain Harry Kane off the bench for the final quarter. Shaqiri came closest to an equaliser, but saw his fierce strike bravely blocked by John Stones as England held out for victory. – AFP

ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate recog- nised his side have vast room for improvement despite bouncing back from three consecutive defeats as a much-changed team edged past Switzerland for a 1-0 friendlywin thanks toMarcus Rashford’s winner. However, the Three Lions again failed to hit the heights from their World Cup campaign, particularly inapoor first 45minutes that provoked strong words between the players at halftime. Southgate, though, did at least stave off an unwanted record of becoming the first England boss to oversee four straight defeats and further puncture the feel-good factor of a run to theWorld Cup semifinals. “It’s not been a perfect week by any means but we finish with a win, which is important mov- ing forward,” said Southgate. “We had a tactical problem to sort out and so many lads playing their first 45 minutes of the

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