Álvaro Morata was delighted to get Spain's title defence off to a winning start and they earned the praise of Russia's Taras Burlak who described the holders as the "strongest side".
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Spain's goalscoring substitute Álvaro Morata was delighted to give his country a crucial winning start to the defence of their UEFA European Under-21 Championship title, although team-mate Isco admitted it was a close-run thing against "difficult" opponents in Russia. If Spain found it tough, so too Russia whose defender Taras Burlak reflected: "We couldn't get hold of the ball."
Álvaro Morata, Spain forward
Thiago [Alcántara] put a great ball in and I managed to score and I'm very happy because it was important to win today. It was very important to start with the win because in this kind of tournament, you can't afford a bad match or to drop points in the first game because that can leave you out of the running for the next stage.
You're more nervous when you're on the bench because you're not the one running and kicking the ball, but in this group we're all a team and we trust each other.
Isco, Spain forward
The first game in a tournament is always important and it sets you up with regards to the next games so it's important to start on the front foot and that's what we've done. They made it very difficult for us – they were man-marking us right across the pitch for almost the entire match and in the end it took a set-piece to win it.
At the start, their pressing was really intense but then in the second half, I dropped back a bit on the left side and I felt more comfortable.
Martín Montoya, Spain defender
It was a really tough game. Russia from the first minute sat back, closed ranks and tried to stop us attacking but in the end it turned out well. We had chances earlier where we could have scored but until the final stages we couldn't do it. They had players out there doing nothing but defend – they man-marked Isco from the first minute because they know he’s an important player but we were able to find space elsewhere. In the second half they tired and we found more holes.
Taras Burlak, Russia defender
The whole team were fighting and the most important thing is we followed the coach's plan. Unfortunately, just one mistake decided the result. In general, we've done everything we could, we put our hearts into it and were on our feet out there. Right now Spain are the strongest team and probably it is good that we conceded only one goal.
We've already discussed in the dressing room who should have been covering who [for the goal] but you cannot get that situation back. I was near [Morata], but was with another player. In theory, I could have done something, but wasn't able to make it.
The Spanish play a very good pressing game. We couldn't get hold of the ball. We were tired as were defending all the time, that's why we couldn't play on the counterattack.
Denis Cheryshev, Russia forward
The plan was clear to us: we knew that it will be difficult against Spain. We haven't played our best match today. We were not sharp enough in attack though we played well in defence.
I have also played for my club in this position [central striker], so it wasn't a surprise to me. To be honest, it was very difficult to get hold of the ball. In the second half I was in my normal position, on the right wing, started to receive the ball more and we looked sharper. At the same time, the Spaniards covered us very well and we were not able to counterattack.