The Julen Lopetegui era got off to a victorious start as a David Silva brace gave Spain a 2-0 victory over Belgium in Thursday’s Brussels friendly.
Only Dani Carvajal and Vitolo were Spain’s new faces from Euro 2016 as the 4-3-3 remained, while Belgium, now managed by Spaniard Roberto Martinez, started without the Coach’s former Everton proteges Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku.
Life under Lopetegui started slowly, with the sluggishness that embodied the latter part of Vicente del Bosque’s reign creeping through, and when a cross was just about punched away by David de Gea, Axel Witsel should have scored but fired inches wide. The midfielder reportedly waited 13 hours to join Juventus less than a day before, only for the move to collapse.
Morata was then taken off as a precaution after he found himself on the receiving end of a strong challenge, prompting Gerard Pique to fume at the referee for not booking the offender. Diego Costa was his replacement.
Moments later, however, a fine team move on Spain’s part was rounded off by Silva as he slid home Costa’s flick-on from Vitolo’s cutback, the winger having rounded Thibaut Courtois.
The Chelsea striker was then slipped through at Courtois’ near post, but his shot went straight at his clubmate, who pushed it away, and the goalkeeper was on hand again to make an important stop as he blocked Pique’s diving header from close range early in the second half.
The restart was a mish-mash of an affair due to both sides regularly making substitutions, but Spain did manage to kill the game off in good time as Vitolo is upended in the Belgium box by Jordan Lukaku for a penalty, which Silva converted. That goal also brought the midfielder level with Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno on 26 Spain goals.
With that, Spain started to enjoy their football like the good old days, in total control of their opponents, keeping the ball with a familiar ominosity and cranking up the ante whenever an opening was presented.
However, De Gea was soon needed to tip over a powerful Mirallas drive after the forward came on, although he could only hope and pray as De Bruyne’s curling strike from the edge of the box flew just over.
Belgium left-back Lukaku, meanwhile, began trending on Twitter in the United Kingdom, and –unfortunately for him – it wasn’t for any good reason as his flank was exposed time after time, discounting the penalty he conceded.
Indded, the final whistle couldn’t come any sooner for Martinez and his new troops as they were promptly booed off by their own fans.
Belgium 0-2 Spain
Silva 34, pen 62
Belgium: Courtois; Meunier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, J Lukaku; Witsel, Nainggolan (Dembele 46); De Bruyne (Defour 87), Hazard, Carrasco (Mirallas 77); Origi (Lukaku 67)
Spain: De Gea; Carvajal (Sergi 85), Ramos, Pique (Bartra 59), Alba (Azpilicueta 59); Busquets, Koke, Thiago; Silva (Vazquez 75), Morata (Costa 27), Vitolo (Saul 75)