La Roja pull through

Goals from Paco Alcacer and Cesc Fabregas were enough to secure Spain a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica in Thursday’s Leon friendly.

Vicente del Bosque opted for a 4-3-3 formation, starting with David de Gea in goal, protected by a defence of Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Marc Bartra and Juan Bernat from right to left.

In the middle of the park, Mikel San Jose was entrusted with anchoring duties behind Fabregas and Koke, while Barcelona new boy Aleix Vidal and Nolito flanked Valencia’s Alcacer in a three-pronged attack.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, named three La Liga-based players in Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Deportivo La Coruna midfielder Celso Borges and Villarreal loanee Joel Campbell.

La Roja’s form since the World Cup had been patchy at best, with only four wins in the eight games that have followed, including their previous 2-0 defeat to Netherlands.

They fell behind just six minutes in as Campbell’s strong run down the left from a lobbed through ball resulted in a low cross for Johan Venegas to drive into the bottom-right corner of De Gea’s net.

Nonetheless, they restored parity just two minutes later, Alcacer superbly springing Costa Rica’s high line to venture forth and curl a finish beyond Navas.

Spain then took control of the match on the 30th minute, when Vidal marked his international debut with a low cross from the right for Fabregas to bury.

The second half failed to truly ignite, with both teams reluctant to crank up the intensity, but Navas did his best to prove new Madrid boss Rafa Benitez of his worth with a terrific pair of saves to deny clubmate Sergio Ramos.

The 28-year-old first caught the eye with a smart stop at his near post to keep out the defender’s header, before repeating his heroics from a matter of yards out shortly after.

Marc Bartra also saw his own point-blank finish crucially blocked on the goal line as Spain ensured they headed into Sunday’s crunch Euro 2016 qualifier against Belarus with a win under their belt.

Spain 2-1 Costa Rica

Alcacer 8, Cesc 30 (S) Venegas 6 (CR)

Spain: De Gea; Dani Carvajal, Ramos (Pique 58), Bartra, Bernat; San Jose (Busquets 75), Cesc (Isco 83), Koke (Cazorla 60); Vidal (Vitolo 46), Alcacer, Nolito (Silva 59)

Costa Rica: Navas; Gamboa, Umana, Gonzalez, Diaz (Aguilar 81); Guzman (Cubero 69), Miller; Venegas (Vega 68), Borges (Saborio 89), Ruiz; Campbell

Referee: Vuckov [HRV]

Tags Costa Rica friendly Spain
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