Spain striker Alvaro Morata enjoyed sweet redemption by helping fire his side to a 5-3 win over Croatia after extra time this evening to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 in an enthralling match laced with drama and storylines.
Spain fell behind in the first half to a Pedri own goal from near the halfway line after an incredible error from keeper Unai Simon but they looked on their way to a comfortable victory with goals from Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres.
Yet Croatia staged an unthinkable comeback with goals from Mislav Orsic in the 85th minute and a Mario Pasalic header in added time to force the extra period.
Spain showed tremendous character though and prevailed thanks to Morata’s superb strike in the 100th minute and a goal from Mikel Oyarzabal in the 103rd.
Spain celebrated a first knockout win in a major tournament since winning Euro 2012 to set up a quarter-final against France or Switzerland in St Petersburg on Friday.
Croatia head home with their heads held high but are still waiting to win a knockout game at a Euros.
Morata has been the center of attention of Spain’s campaign amid inconsistent performances and criticism from his own supporters, which took an ugly turn during last week’s 5-0 win over Slovakia.
His wife and children were threatened by supporters in Seville and he complained of facing death threats before the game, prompting coach Luis Enrique to urge police action.
Morata has been accused of having a fragile disposition but showed real leadership when Spain’s confidence was on the floor, controlling a Dani Olmo cross with one foot before blasting into the roof of the net.
His team mate Simon also compensated for his first-half howler, making a superb save to thwart Andrej Kramaric early in extra-time.
Substitute Oyarzabal struck moments later to increase Spain’s lead and this time Croatia had no response.