Spain striker Alvaro Morata answered vicious criticism by helping fire his side to a 5-3 win over Croatia after extra time on Monday to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 in a breathless match laced with storylines.
In the best game of the tournament so far, 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 the three-times European championes recovered their poise and looked on their way to a comfortable victory with goals from Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres.
Showing the spirit that took them to the last World Cup final, Croatia staged an astonishing comeback with goals from Mislav Orsic in the 85th minute and a Mario Pasalic header in added time to force the extra period.
Luis Enrique’s side showed tremendous character though and prevailed with 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.
“We suffered so much, it has been such a long time since we have won a knockout match and we managed to finally do it against the World Cup runners up,” said Spain defender Cesar Azpilicueta.