2016 European Championship, Group Stage 2016
  • Gerard Piqué (87')

Gerard Pique nets late winner as Spain see off stubborn Czechs

Gerard Pique scored a late goal as defending champions Spain began their Euro 2016 campaign with a 1-0 win against a stubborn Czech Republic side.

The Group D match had seemed set to end in a goalless draw despite plenty of Spain pressure, but Pique sealed the points when he headed home a fine Andres Iniesta cross three minutes from time.

Even then, Spain keeper David De Gea still had to make a late save from Vladimir Darida before victory was secure.

The Czechs started brightly and won an early free kick when Tomas Necid was fouled by Pique, but Darida could only send a tame effort into the wall.

Spain's passing soon started to click and, as they came forward, the Czech defence scrambled away a Juanfran cross from inside the six-yard box.

Vicente del Bosque's side fashioned more danger when Ramos headed wide from a free kick before Manchester City midfielder David Silva crossed low into the six-yard box, where Alvaro Morata hit his effort too close to Petr Cech.

With Spain as expected enjoying the bulk of possession, Pique looped a header towards goal but saw it comfortably claimed.

Iniesta fed Morata inside in the area, but he was unable to get the ball under control and then Morata saw an angled shot pushed around the post by Cech.

The Arsenal goalkeeper was rapidly emerging as the Czech hero and made two more stops in quick succession.

First he tipped away a Jordi Alba effort, and then he smothered at David Silva's feet as the Manchester City forward tried to shoot from a narrow angle.

The Czechs forced De Gea into action at the end of the first half, when Necid's effort from the edge of the box after a neat break was saved.

In the opening seconds of the second half, Morata saw his low cross deflect off Roman Hubnik and hit the outside of Cech's near post.

From the corner, Nolito saw a shot blocked after the keeper flapped, and a follow-up effort was deflected behind.

Alba fizzed a superb low cross right through the six-yard box as Spain's dominance continued -- but still they could not find a goal.

They were again grateful to De Gea just before the hour when he saved after Hubnik had prodded a low effort toward the corner.

That seemed to inspire the Czechs, who came close again when Theodor Gebre Selassie saw his header cleared by Cesc Fabregas from close to his own goal line.

But Spain returned to the front foot and should have opened the scoring when Alba, played in by Silva, allowed Hubnik to get back and make a last-ditch challenge.

Aritz Aduriz was off target with a spectacular overhead kick, but Spain continued to press -- and they finally got their reward as the clock ticked down.