Spain are off to a winning start in UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship Group A after getting the better of tournament hosts the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in front of a record crowd of 8,000 in Skopje, though a 6-0 win did not tell the whole tale.
The competition newcomers put up stout opposition in their debut at this level and frustrated Angel Vilda Serrano's side until seven minutes before the break, when Spain's increasing reliance on set pieces finally yielded the opener for Maria Galan. It was no more than their dominance merited and they sealed the result courtesy of Irene del Rio shortly after the interval before a late flurry of goals from Carolina Ferez, Maria Victoria Losada, Ana Buceta and Naiara Beristain.
There was plenty of energy and colour on show in the tournament's opening ceremony ahead of kick-off and both teams ensured continuity with an enthusiastic start. Playmaker and captain Natasa Andonova quickly came to embody the hunger in the FYROM ranks – spurred on by a lively crowd – yet Spain's superior technique soon gave them the upper hand. Translating that into goals proved another matter, though, and Del Rio fired narrowly over before Marta Corredera headed too high from a Maria Victoria Losada free-kick.
Dobrislav Dimovski's charges looked to make up for any gap in quality with an aggressive, committed display, yet their opponents kept coming at them and both Del Rio and Beristain drew saves from goalkeeper Cvetanka Petrova. Spain were proving troublesome from set pieces too, Ester Gonzalez heading just wide from another Losada delivery and Mladena Petrova needing to clear a Del Rio free-kick off the line – before a corner prompted the first goal. Losada sent the ball towards the back post and central defender Galan was there to volley in.
Spain looked to increase their advantage in the second period and after Losada was denied by Petrova, Del Rio latched on to a deftly weighted through ball to finish with composure. Comfortably on top, they gave the scoreline gloss in the final ten minutes, substitute Ferez profiting from a Beristain long ball, Losada registering with a free-kick that evaded everyone, Buceta blasting in from distance and, finally, Beristain driving in following an added-time corner. They will hope to continue where they left off against France on Thursday, when FYROM come up against the Netherlands.
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