Spain overcome Croatia in epic Euro affair

·2-min read

Spain have gifted Croatia a bizarre own-goal, then threw away a late two-goal lead before Alvaro Morata made sure it didn't matter in a classic European Championship round of 16 encounter.

Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal scored in extra time to give Spain a 5-3 win over Croatia after a wildly entertaining see-saw match at Parken Stadium.

"I've lived through really intense matches as a player and manager but this one genuinely had a bit of everything," Spain coach Luis Enrique said.

It was the second-highest scoring game in the history of the tournament, trailing only Yugoslavia's 5-4 win over France in the opening game of the inaugural instalment in 1960.

Spain will play Switzerland in the quarter-finals on Friday in St Petersburg, after the Swiss beat world champions France 5-4 on penalties - coming back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3.

After Croatia midfielder Mario Pasalic equalised in stoppage time to cap an improbable late comeback, the much-maligned Morata scored what proved the decisive goal in the 100th minute.

The Spain striker controlled a cross with one deft touch and then sent a rising shot past goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic for his second goal of the tournament.

Oyarzabal doubled the lead three minutes later to seal the result.

Morata had received a torrent of online abuse - including death threats - after a string of misses during the group stage but his fierce finish from a tight angle proved decisive on Monday.

"I don't think there's any coach in the world who wouldn't admire a player like Morata," Luis Enrique said.

"He dominates in the air, he scores goals, he is physically powerful. He is a striker we should really value."

Croatia fell well short of replicating their feat of reaching the World Cup final in 2018.

"At the start of extra time we had them on the ropes but we failed to score from two good chances," Croatia captain Luka Modric said.

"Then the game turned around and we didn't have the strength to come back."

Spain had led 3-1 in the 85th minute but Mislav Orsic pulled one back and Pasalic equalised with a header.

Spain had dominated the first 20 minutes but went behind with goalkeeper Unai Simon's massive blunder - in which he failed to control a long back pass, allowing the ball to trickle into the goal.

"We know that's football and that those things happen," Spain captain Sergio Busquets said.

"The most important thing is to pick yourself up and show a strong mentality.

"And I think both Unai and the whole team did that today."

Spain quickly recovered and Pablo Sarabia equalised in the 38th.

Right back Cesar Azpilicueta then made it 2-1 with a header in the 57th and Ferran Torres doubled the lead when he finished off a quick counter attack with a low shot past Livakovic in the 77th.

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