Spain stayed top of their 2018 World Cup qualifying group with a 2-1 victory over FYR Macedonia on Sunday but were made to sweat for the win.
Goals from David Silva and Diego Costa gave Spain a deserved lead at half-time, but La Roja were ultimately relieved to leave Macedonia with a result after Stefan Ristevski pulled one back for the hosts with an explosive drive.
Costa started as Spain’s lone striker ahead of Alvaro Morata and Iago Aspas, just four days after his revelation that he had been told to leave Chelsea by text message.
Elsewhere, there were returns for Real Madrid trio Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos and Isco, plus goalkeeper David de Gea and midfielder Thiago Alcantara.
La Roja’s last meeting with Macedonia came last September, when they cruised to a 4-0 victory over the Balkans.
Not long after Spain found their usual rhythm, Silva added to his goal against Colombia midweek by swivelling in the Macedonia box and wrongfooting Dimitrievski with his near-post shot!
Little over 10 minutes later, it was 2-0. Good work from Isco down the right saw him square the ball towards the far post for Costa to slam home his fifth goal in as many caps.
Macedonia’s only effort came via Stefan Ristovski, who dragged a shot wide of De Gea’s left-hand post.
Isco, on the other hand, had three. Firing straight at Dimitrievski the first time, he then curled inches wide of the far post from another, finely-woven Spain move and could only find the custodian again after he danced his way to the near post.
The second half didn’t get going until the last half-hour, signalled by Silva’s low cross being hacked off the line and behind for a corner, which Gerard Pique flung just over.
However, La Roja were left stunned when Ristovski broke clear down the right, before unleashing an rocket past De Gea.
Spain instantly brought on Pedro Rodriguez for some much-needed pace to counter Macedonia’s growing momentum.
Yet it was Costa who was found unmarked down the right of the hosts’ box, although his angled strike was straight at Dimitrievski.
With the final whistle fast approaching, hearts were suddenly in mouths at both ends. First, Costa tried to lob Dimitrievski, but the custodian got a vital hand on the striker’s attempt.
Palermo striker Igor Nestorovski then latched onto a long ball at the other end and tumbled in the box, claiming he had been felled by Ramos, but only a goal kick was given.
FYR Macedonia 1-2 Spain
Ristovski 66 (M) Silva 15, Costa 27 (S)
FYR Macedonia: Dimitrievski; Toshevski (Trajkovski 74), Shikov, Mojsov (Trichkovski 85), Ristevski; Ristovski, Stjepanovikj (Elmas 46), Spirovski, Alioski; Nestorovski, Pandev
Spain: De Gea; Carvajal, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Isco, Busquets, Thiago (Koke 74); Silva (Pedro 69), Costa, Iniesta (Saul 90)
Referee: Gil (POL)