• Alvaro Morata scored his first international goal to give hosts the lead
• Spain had to survive heavy pressure from Ukraine in the second half
• Spain remain three points behind Group C leaders Slovakia, who also won reports dailymail.co.uk.
While Harry Kane was scoring on his debut for England, Alvaro Morata was scoring on his first start for Spain to give the reigning European Champions a 1-0 win over Ukraine.
The former Real Madrid striker, who nearly joined Kane at Spurs as part as the deal that took Gareth Bale to Spain, settled the match in the first half in what was a largely unconvincing performance from Vicente Del Bosque’s team.
Franco Baldini wanted Morata to move to North London but he ended up staying in Madrid before moving to Juventus last summer. His goals have helped them into the last eight of the Champions League and he took that form with him into this Group C qualifier.
Playing instead of the injured Diego Costa he converted a Koke pass on 28 minutes but Spain failed to find the second and still look a long way from the form they showed when they won the Euros three years ago. They also lost Jordi Alba to a groin injury in the second half.
La Roja applied all the early pressure but Isco and Morata sent their first shots wide and David Silva missed the target with a diving header 12 yards out from an Isco cross.
Ukraine looked dangerous on the coutner attack in the first 20 minutes and Artem Fedetsky sent a wayward volley wide of Iker Casillas’ goal from a corner. From the edge of the area Ruslan Rotan also went close, but again Spain’s goalkeeper was able to watch the ball go wide.
Spain attacked with more quality than the visitors and just before the half hour they were in front when Andres Iniesta found Koke and his first time ball sent Morata through. He held off the last defender and when Ukraine keeper Andrei Pyatov went to ground early he lofted the ball over him to score.
Spain then enjoyed their best spell. Silva tested Pyatov with another shot and Iniesta began to lead Ukraine a merry dance in midfield. On the day that Xavi showed up in Qatar to sign a three-year contract Spain could easily have been reminded of how much they miss him.
But his Barcelona team-mate was running the midfield until the break. They could have gone in at half time 2-0 up but Sergio Ramos’ header from Silva’s free-kick came back off the frame of the goal.
Encouraged by Spain’s narrow lead Ukraine had their chances at the start of the second half with Casillas saving Rotan’s free-kick.
The keeper then gave Dnipro’s Rotan another chance kicking the ball straight to him but then parried his shot.
That was typical of the sloppiness that had crept into Spain’s play at the start of the second period. They needed the second goal – it might have come when Iniesta fed Morata but his shot was closer to the corner flag than Pyatov’s goal and that was the last thing he did before being replaced by Pedro.
At least he had his debut goal.
It was still far too easy to reach the edge of Spain’s penalty area and they were saved by Ukraine not being able to make the most of arriving there – Rotan again shot straight at Casillas after meeting Yevhen Konoplianka’s cross.
Spain continued to over-elaborate at one end and leave too much space at the other and when Jordi Alba went off holding his groin with 12 minutes left even Barcelona supporters were worried.
They played out the final minutes to take the three points and they stay second behind Slovakia but Del Bosque will not need telling there is work to be done if they are to retain their crown in France next summer.