Luis Enrique was pleased with the way Spain responded to their defeat to Sweden with a comfortable victory over Georgia on Sunday.

La Roja suffered a shock 2-1 loss in Stockholm on Thursday, their first in 66 World Cup qualifying matches stretching back to 1993.

They bounced back in style in Badajoz, with goals from Jose Gaya, Carlos Soler, Ferran Torres and Pablo Sarabia securing a 4-0 win.

Head coach Luis Enrique felt the margin of victory could have been even greater given Spain's dominance, with Torres and Sarabia each seeing a goal disallowed for offside in a match in which the home side completed 820 passes to Georgia's 264.

"We professionals are used to living on a rollercoaster," Luis Enrique said. "You have to go through pain after a defeat, but quickly bite the bullet and think about the next game.

"Although it seems like the result was easy, it wasn't. We got through them on the inside, the outside, we created chances and we could have scored more goals."

The only disappointment for Spain was seeing some players forced off with physical problems.

While Luis Enrique thinks Aymeric Laporte was simply feeling some muscle fatigue, he is worried Gaya could have a bigger concern.

"Most of the changes were due to some discomfort for the players. I hope there are no serious injuries. That's the bad news," he said.

"Laporte has nothing, it's just a small overload. I don't think they'll even test him.

"Gaya does not look good."

 

Spain responded to their defeat to Sweden with an impressive 4-0 victory over Georgia in Badajoz on Sunday in their latest qualifier for Qatar 2022.

Goals from Jose Gaya, Carlos Soler, Ferran Torres and Pablo Sarabia earned Luis Enrique's men a comfortable victory and temporarily put them back on top of their group.

While that 2-1 loss in Stockholm on Thursday ended a 66-game unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying, there was little hangover in Extremadura as the hosts delivered a controlled and entertaining display for the packed crowd.

Gaya's first-time strike from the edge of the box was not the cleanest, but it was enough to give Spain a 14th-minute lead as it took a big deflection on its way past goalkeeper Giorgi Loria.

Soler made it 2-0 with 25 minutes gone, stylishly side-footing high into the net after Marcos Llorente's cut-back found its way to his feet.

Torres saw a goal disallowed for offside but still made it 3-0 before the break, his scuffed effort bouncing beyond Loria and into the bottom-left corner.

Georgia posed a threat to Unai Simon's goal early in the second half, but Spain pounced via a quick counter-attack, Sarabia lifting a finish high past Loria after he was brilliantly set up by Pablo Fornals.

Simon did produce a remarkable one-handed stop to deny Georges Mikautadze before he was replaced by Robert Sanchez, as Luis Enrique gave some game time to the substitutes in the closing stages.

Sarabia thought he had scored a fifth with the last kick of the game, but Fornals was judged offside before delivering his pinpoint cross.

What does it mean? Stylish response from Spain after Sweden shock

Amid the inquest into that defeat to Sweden – their first in World Cup qualifying since 1993 – this was a comfortable return to winning ways for La Roja.

There was a welcome clinical edge to their performance as they moved back to the top of Group B, a point ahead of Sweden but having played two games more.

Georgia remain bottom with one point from their five matches.

Torres terrific

This was another performance to show why Pep Guardiola likes to use Torres in a central attacking role for Manchester City.

Not only did he twice put the ball in the net, the first disallowed after a VAR check, but he also contested 10 duels – the most of anyone in his hour on the pitch.

He is the first Spain player to score at least five times in a calendar year since Isco in 2018.

Can Spain sustain momentum?

Kosovo away in the coming days will be a tougher test than this one, but it is crucial to Spain's hopes of topping the group that they keep up the pressure on Sweden.

Building some form and confidence would also do no harm to their Nations League chances – they face Italy in the semi-finals on October 6.

What's next?

Spain face Kosovo in Prishtina on Wednesday, while Georgia head to Sofia to play a friendly with Bulgaria.

The British and Irish Lions' clash with the Sharks is in doubt after a member of their management team tested positive for coronavirus, while South Africa's game with Georgia is off.

Warren Gatland's men are due to face the Sharks in the second match of their tour of South Africa on Wednesday.

However, four members of the touring party, including two players, are now isolating having been deemed to be close contacts of the individual who had the positive test result.

Kick-off has been pushed back to 20:00 local time (19:00 BST) pending the results of PCR tests for the rest of the touring party. The game will go ahead should those tests return negative results.

"We have followed all necessary precautions since the start of the tour, which included regular testing and rigorous COVID-19 counter measure planning and protocols," said Ben Calveley, managing director for the Lions.

"Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of the entire touring party, which is why we quickly isolated the players and staff upon receiving the news of the positive result.

"Everyone has subsequently been lateral flow and PCR tested. The Medical Advisory Group await the results of the PCR testing in order to make a decision on tonight's game.

"The five individuals affected will be monitored closely during isolation and receive the best possible medical attention as we await the results of their PCR tests."

The Springboks' second Test with Georgia was cancelled due to COVID outbreaks in both camps.

South Africa's playing and management group returned 12 positive tests this week, with Georgia returning four. 

Jurie Roux, CEO of South Africa Rugby, said: "In the context of the loss of life and economic damage that COVID and this third wave are wreaking, the cancellation of a rugby match is pretty trivial.

"But it is still a major disappointment for the many stakeholders who have invested so much time, energy and resources into making these matches happen.

"I especially feel for the fans and players, and for our visitors from Georgia who travelled here at relatively short notice to take on the series, which has now been cut short. We've not been able to interact with them because of the bio-secure environments, but I'd like to thank them publicly for their support.

"We continue to plan for the Springboks' re-emergence from isolation and the completion of the Test series but in the short term we wish a speedy recovery for those who have been infected."

The Lions' clash with the Bulls on Saturday is already off and, while they are scheduled to face South Africa 'A' next Wednesday, the remainder of the tour now looks to be in question.

South Africa have recorded a further 10 COVID-19 cases, including head coach Jacques Nienaber, while the British and Irish Lions' match with the Bulls has been postponed.

A Lions statement on Tuesday confirmed they were exploring a rescheduling of the match or finding different opponents after five positive tests meant it was "impossible" for the Bulls to field a team.

The Lions' meeting with the Sharks in Johannesburg next Wednesday is set to go ahead as scheduled.

However, the Springboks' match with Georgia next week is also in doubt after Nienaber, five management figures and four players - Marvin Orie, Frans Steyn, Handre Pollard and Frans Malherbe - all returned positive tests.

There were also four cases of the virus within the Georgia team. Jurie Roux, CEO of South Africa Rugby, said the news underlined the problems posed by the Delta variant of the virus, which was first identified in India but has since spread to numerous countries.

"These positive results are a setback and have underlined the danger of transmissibility of the Delta variant," he said.

"The Springboks' second Test against Georgia is now in serious doubt, but we will wait for the MAG to consider the data and we will make the final decision tomorrow [Wednesday].

"The priority is to maintain the integrity of the Test series and we will continue to focus on that."

On Monday, South Africa suspended training and placed their squad in isolation after lock Lood de Jager tested positive for coronavirus.

There had been three further confirmed cases of the virus within the squad on June 27, although they were still able to go ahead with their first warm-up match against Georgia, which ended in a 40-9 victory for the Boks.

It was their first match since winning the World Cup in November 2019.

The first Test with the Lions is due to take place on July 24 in Cape Town, before moving to Johannesburg for the second and third matches.

South Africa marked their return to Test action with a commanding 40-9 victory over Georgia at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday.

The Springboks had not competed since winning the Rugby World Cup in November 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic and initially took time to get going in Pretoria.

But the hosts slowly loosened up on and crossed over six times to make a positive start to preparations for their upcoming three-match Test series with the British and Irish Lions

Aphelele Fassi was one of two players making their debut for the Boks, along with Rosko Specman, and he marked the occasion with the first try inside the opening five minutes from his very first touch.

Georgia had already got on the board by that point through Tedo Abzhandadze's penalty, and the fly-half kicked over twice more before South Africa next registered.

Following a sustained spell of pressure, Bongi Mbonambi went over from the maul to give the home team a platform to build on and they did not look back.

The world champions made the most of their man advantage after Beka Saghinadze was sin-binned as Cobus Reinach gathered a Fassi kick and raced through before half-time.

South Africa had more of a cutting edge to them in the second half, with Kwagga Smith picking up from the base to cross over and Herschel Jantjies doing likewise five minutes later thanks to some smart play from Handre Pollard.

Malcolm Marx was next to dot down following a powerful rolling maul as Jacques Nienaber's side moved through the gears.

The Springboks passed up a couple of promising situations in the remaining 10 minutes, but the damage had already been done as they claimed victory in the first of their two Tests with Georgia ahead of facing the Lions on July 24.

Memphis Depay scored one and created another in his latest dominant display as the Netherlands defeated Georgia 3-0 on Sunday ahead of Euro 2020.

Lyon striker Depay had scored both goals in the prior friendly against Scotland to rescue a draw and played a key role again a week out from the Oranje's tournament opener at home to Ukraine.

The first from Depay came from the penalty spot after 10 minutes and he then teased a gorgeous pass through for Wout Weghorst's first international goal in the second half. Ryan Gravenberch later broke his own duck.

Depay and Weghorst again headlined a Frank de Boer XI that showed only two changes from the team that faced Scotland, hinting at his finals line-up, but Matthijs de Ligt was one of those to make way due to a groin complaint.

He was a miss in the defence as Saba Lobzhanidze advanced inside two minutes and squandered a big chance with a tame finish.

The Netherlands would not be as wasteful when they forged a similarly straightforward path through the Georgia back line and Depay converted the penalty won from his pass by Denzel Dumfries, who was tripped by Lasha Dvali.

Dumfries and Depay soon combined again, but the latter's stretching effort was superbly saved by Giorgi Loria, a stop that should have allowed the visitors to equalise when Valeriane Gvilia instead steered wide.

Loria was at his best again to touch over Frenkie de Jong's drive, yet Weghorst's close-range strike escaped his clutches 10 minutes into the second half.

Although more agile goalkeeping kept out Depay's blast, pressure continued to build on Loria's goal and he blocked again from the same man only to see Gravenberch nod in.

A sensational Jambul Jigauri volley beat Maarten Stekelenburg five minutes from time but bounced away off the crossbar, ensuring a one-sided final scoreline.

 

What does it mean? Steady stuff from De Boer's men

De Boer clearly has a settled side, which might give the Netherlands an edge over some opponents, but they will have to beat better teams than Georgia to become champions of Europe.

This was not the most convincing display, although there could have been more home goals if not for some excellent work from Loria, who prevented 1.19 goals using expected goals on target data.

Depay devastating once again

Depay was involved in a goal every 38 minutes in qualifying (six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes), the best rate among the 54 players to have a hand in five or more. A goal and an assist in 90 minutes meant he was only marginally less effective on Sunday.

With the defence looking a little shaky and Weghorst still making his way on the international stage, the Netherlands' campaign will live or die by Depay's performances.

Daley a disappointing deputy

It was no surprise to see Daley Blind removed in De Boer's only half-time change, having replaced De Ligt in the line-up. The Ajax defender was preferred to Nathan Ake, the substitute that took his place.

Blind failed to complete a tackle or interception as he was exposed by the pace of Lobzhanidze. Euros opponents will be more clinical if Blind has to step in again for De Ligt.

What's next?

All eyes now are on the Euros, which begins for the Netherlands against Ukraine in Amsterdam next Sunday.

Luis Enrique joked he was on the verge of a heart attack after Spain required a last-gasp Dani Olmo strike to see off Georgia 2-1 in Sunday's World Cup 2022 qualifier.

Spain played out a 1-1 draw with Greece in their opening Group B fixture on Thursday and were on the verge of being held by Georgia at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena.

But substitute Olmo fired in a 25-yard winner in the 92nd minute to spare Spain's blushes after Ferran Torres had earlier cancelled out Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's first-half opener.

Luis Enrique celebrated the goal wildly and admitted his side are bereft of confidence, having won just one of their last five games prior to the late victory in Tbilisi.

"I was on the verge of a heart attack," he told TVE. "We have been losing confidence and you could see that in the first half. 

"We conceded from a slight defensive error and knew it would be complicated from that point on. Our intention was to play more passes inside and create more opportunities."

Asked if Spain deserved their victory against a side ranked 83 places below them in the FIFA rankings, Luis Enrique said: "Yes. And if people think it isn't then I do not care.

"If you score in the 90-something minute it is because you have worked hard for the goal. Each win will lift our morale but we cannot afford to relax now."

Luis Enrique made seven changes from the Greece draw, including a first senior cap for Pedro Porro and a full debut for Bryan Gil.

Spain managed just two shots on target in their last match and only slightly improved in that regard against Georgia with three on-target attempts.

And with a home match against Kosovo to come on Wednesday in the last of this month's triple-header of fixtures, Luis Enrique is expecting more teams to try to frustrate his side.

"Unfortunately this is the way it is going to be against Kosovo as well," he said. "We made a lot of changes today but were very lucid. 

"There are no small rivals, especially when they all lock themselves behind the ball. If you are not on top of your game then you will suffer."

Ramos was taken off at half-time against Greece and was an unused substitute on Sunday, but Luis Enrique reiterated that his skipper is not carrying an injury.

"He is fine," the former Barcelona boss said. "I know that whatever I decide with Ramos it is going to generate controversy and debate. I am prepared for any situation."

Torres' equaliser 11 minutes into the second half was his fourth in three appearances for Spain and paved the way for half-time substitute Olmo's long-range winner.

RB Leipzig midfielder Olmo credited Georgia for pushing his side all the way and insisted getting all three points was ultimately all that mattered.

"First, I must congratulate the whole team for getting the win," he said. "We needed this victory, so I'm very happy that it ended like this.

"It is difficult to explain how I'm feeling. It's unique. It is incredible and the support of the team when scoring and the emotion has been spectacular

"You have to speak well of Georgia - they played very well. They did us some damage on the counter-attack but we knew how to react.

"I think that everyone tries to play to their strengths. We are very clear about they way we play. Sometimes you can't win, like against Greece, but today we have been able to get all three points."

Spain have now earned four points from added-time goals in their 10 competitive matches since Luis Enrique returned, having previously battled back to earn Nations League draws against Germany and Switzerland.

La Roja are also the first team ever to score in 37 successive World Cup qualifying matches, breaking West Germany's record set between 1934 and 1985.

Dani Olmo spared Spain's blushes with a 92nd-minute strike to earn his side a 2-1 comeback win over Georgia in Sunday's World Cup 2022 qualifier in Tbilisi.

Spain were held 1-1 by Greece in their Group B opener on Thursday and were heading for another shock result at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia gave Georgia the lead just before the interval, but Ferran Torres equalised 11 minutes into the second period and half-time substitute Olmo scored a long-range goal in added time.

Georgia ended the game with 10 men after Levan Shengelia was sent off for a challenge on Pedri as Spain avoided an embarrassing result on their travels.

Luis Enrique is confident Spain can find their creative spark when they face Georgia on Sunday after being frustrated by Greece in their opening World Cup qualifying clash.

Spain had to settle for a 1-1 draw in their first Group B encounter in Granada on Thursday after they could only muster two shots on target.

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring, but Anastasios Bakasetas' penalty 11 minutes into the second half was enough for Greece to earn a point.

Luis Enrique is backing his side to put that disappointment behind them when they take on Georgia in Tbilisi.

The Spain head coach said in a press conference on Saturday: "You depend on the quality of the players and we have a lot of that, for which I am calm.

"There are no bottles of pills for inspiration, if you find them in a pharmacy, buy me two bottles!"

The former Barcelona boss added: "The team has to attack with freshness without problems. We must make a difference in attack and defence."

Luis Enrique is not sure what approach Georgia will take after he felt they were unfortunate to start their campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Sweden.

He said: "I don't know what Georgia will do against us, but against Sweden they generated a lot of scoring chances. I think Georgia deserved to draw that game.

"They played Sweden face to face and I hope for a similar Georgia. It won't be easy."

Luis Enrique once again allayed injury concerns over Sergio Ramos after he was withdrawn at half-time against Greece and said Gerard Moreno's fitness will be monitored in training.

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