Spain and Germany held on to claim uninspiring wins in the Nations League on Saturday, when Luxembourg and Montenegro also won their games.
A blunder from Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer was enough for Spain to win 1-0 in an empty stadium in Madrid, while Germany defeated Ukraine 2-1 in front of more than 17,000 fans in Kyiv for its first win in the competition at the seventh attempt. Joachim Löw’s team had drawn three and lost three since the first tournament began in 2018.
DE GEA RESCUES SPAIN
Switzerland had only one scoring opportunity in a lackluster game, when goalkeeper David de Gea made a great one-handed save to parry Loris Benito’s powerful strike early on.
Counterpart Sommer then got flustered by Spain’s pressure and passed the ball past his teammate and directly to Mikel Merino, who set up Real Sociedad clubmate Mikel Oyarzabal to score the only goal in the 14th minute.
Spain leads Group 4 with 7 points, ahead of Germany on 5, Ukraine on 3, and Switzerland with 1.
Adama Traoré went on for teenage sensation Ansu Fati in the second half and provided some good flashes on his competitive debut, but otherwise Spain coach Luis Enrique will have been left wondering about his choices as he tries to establish a new generation capable of challenging for titles.
Spain next visits Ukraine on Tuesday.
GERMANY FINALLY WINS
Defender Matthias Ginter and midfielder Leon Goretzka scored to give Löw’s team its first win in the group, its first of the year, and after three games including the friendly against Turkey in which it squandered leads to draw.
A late penalty from Ruslan Malinovskyi ensured another nervy ending, but a Ukraine side depleted by coronavirus cases and injuries was unable to draw level. Andriy Shevchenko’s side was thrashed by France 7-1 in their friendly on Wednesday.
After drawing with Turkey 3-3 in Cologne on the same day, Löw restored his regular players in Kyiv, building the team around the Bayern Munich “block” of Manuel Neuer, Niklas Süle, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry. Leipzig’s Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg, and Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos also returned to the starting lineup.
Löw confirmed afterward he will try to stick with the same players for Tuesday’s game against Switzerland in Cologne, another city where coronavirus cases are rising.
Löw acknowledged concern about playing in Kyiv, where the infection rate has been growing.
SMALLER TEAMS REJOICE
Two goals in the first half from Danel Sinani were enough for Luxembourg to defeat visiting Cyprus 2-0, while Montenegro maintained its perfect record in Group I of League C in beating Azerbaijan 2-0.
Montenegro has 9 points from three games, followed by Luxembourg on 6, Azerbaijan with 3, and Cyprus with none.
Also, an early goal from Tjay de Barr was enough for Gibraltar to beat fellow minnow Liechtenstein 1-0. It was Gibraltar’s second ever competitive away win and its second consecutive in Group 2 of League D, which it leads with 6 points. Liechtenstein has 3 points and San Marino 0.
In Group 1 of League D, Andorra drew with Malta 0-0, and the Faeroe Islands drew with Latvia 1-1. The Faeroes top the group with 7 points from three games.