Alvaro Morata dedicated Spain’s 2-0 victory against Malta to absent manager Luis Enrique.
Prior to Tuesday’s Euro 2020 qualifier, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) announced Enrique would miss the game due to “family reasons”.
The former Barcelona coach’s assistant Robert Moreno instead occupied his place on the touchline. The 41-year-old made several changes to the line-up, with Kepa Arrizabalaga replacing David de Gea in goal.
Jose Luis Gaya, Saul Niguez and Sergi Roberto were all also named as starters after sitting out of Spain’s 2-1 win over Norway last week.
Despite dominating ball possession, however, Spain struggled to breakthrough Malta’s defence. The hosts clearly seemed content to sit deep and defend the penalty area rather than going for goal.
This caused Spain to remain patient until Morata’s shot from a tight angle in the 31st-minute put them in front. The Atletico Madrid loan star later added a second by heading in Jesus Navas’ cross in the 73rd-minute to seal a 2-0 win for La Roja.
Speaking afterwards, Morata paid tribute to the absent Enrique.
“We always want to win and go for everything, but today we had more motivation,” said Morata, according to Fox Sports.
“We wanted to win for our coach, who deserves it and we are with him to the end.
“He knows how happy I am to be here. What we want is to qualify as soon as possible for Euro 2020 and it was important to win. We won away and we move on.”
Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio added: “Whenever the coach is missing, it shows. We send him a hug from all the team. This victory is for him.”
Spain now sit top of Group F with six points from two matches ahead of Sweden and Romania.
Enrique’s side will next be in action away to the Faroe Islands on June 7 for another Euro 2020 qualifier.
⏱ ¡FINAL! Sumanos nuestra segunda victoria en el camino hacia la #EURO2020. ¡Gracias por vuestro apoyo!💪🏻🇪🇸
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) March 26, 2019