MALAGA, Spain — Spain’s late substitute Joselu struck two quick-fire goals on his debut to seal a 3-0 win over Norway in their first Euro 2024 Group A qualifier on Saturday as they got off to a promising start under new manager Luis de la Fuente.
Spain, who have won their last 23 European home qualifiers, took the lead in the 13th minute through Dani Olmo, who flicked the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot after being set up by defender Alejandro Balde.
Norway tried to respond two minutes later when Martin Odegaard’s strike was blocked by Nacho, who returned to the Spain team after a near five-year absence.
Striker Alvaro Morata was close to doubling their lead in the 25th but the newly-appointed Spain captain was seconds late to latch onto a low cross by Olmo.
Norway could have levelled just before the half-hour mark with a powerful first-time shot by Fredrik Aursnes but Spain keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, returning for his first cap since October 2020, showed quick reflexes to parry the ball.
Spain, rebuilding with 61-year-old De la Fuente following a last-16 World Cup exit to eventual semi-finalists Morocco, continued to press as they were less focused on possession and much more on going straight for the opposing goal.
This proved enough against a motivated Norway side who nonetheless lacked bite up front in the absence of the injured Erling Haaland and spurned several more chances including from Marcus Pedersen and Alexander Sorloth in the second half.
Spain could only relax however when they doubled their lead in the 84th minute as striker Joselu nodded in a brilliant cross by midfielder Fabian Ruiz three minutes after coming on.
The 32-year-old struck again a minute later to make it 3-0 for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists from a rebound.
He became the first Spain player to score twice on his debut since Fernando Morientes’ double against Sweden in 1998.
“I have to thank (the coach) for the faith he’s shown in me in his first match in charge. I tried to give my all to reward him,” Joselu said.
“Right now I feel like an 18-year-old kid again. I don’t think age matters — and this is an incredible day to prove that.”
De la Fuente, who previously managed Spain youth teams and saw them win Under-19 and Under-21 European Championships in 2015 and 2019, was happy with his side’s display.
“Besides, the attitude I’ve seen, the desire to win, makes me very optimistic,” he said.
Spain next face Scotland in Glasgow on Tuesday when Norway travel to Georgia. — Reuters