Spain smashes Croatia behind Asensio push


Spain’s Marco Asensio (20) celebrates the team’s third goal on Tuesday in National League group play against Croatia.

ReutersELCHE, Spain (Reuters) — Spain showed its remarkable potential under new coach Luis Enrique by destroying World Cup runner-up Croatia 6-0 on Tuesday to hand the visitor its biggest defeat and take control of the Nations League group.

Midfielder Saul Niguez scored in his home city of Elche by heading home midway through the first half, giving Spain the lead against the run of play after Croatia had made a bright start and missed two good chances.

The host soon increased its lead with two thumping strikes from Marco Asensio, the second of which was given as an own goal to Croatia goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic as it bounced off him after crashing against the crossbar.

Rodrigo Moreno completed a fine team move after the interval before captain Sergio Ramos headed the fifth while a strike from Isco saw Spain become the first team to score six against Croatia as they charged top of League A, Group 4 with six points.

It was also the second time this year Spain has scored six goals against the World Cup runner-up, following a 6-1 March win over 2014 finalist Argentina.

Spain was in a confident mood after winning its first game under Luis Enrique 2-1 away to England in its Nations League opener on Saturday, and once it scored, the floodgates opened as Croatia was left chasing shadows.

“We played a spectacular game and rounded off a brilliant week. We needed to recuperate the feelings we had before, we’ve played two great games,” said goalscorer Asensio, who also provided three assists.

To reach the Nations League finals next June, Spain needs just two points from its two remaining games — at home against England and at Croatia.

“We’ve played two teams that went very far in the World Cup, and these victories are very important to reach the final phase, which is a challenge we have set ourselves,” Asensio added.

Lukaku, Belgium break Iceland

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) — Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice and won a penalty that Eden Hazard converted as it crushed Iceland 3-0 in their Nations League A, Group 2 clash.

Bustling forward Lukaku was bundled over by Sverrir Ingi Ingason in the 28th minute and the referee immediately pointed to the spot, with Hazard calmly sending Hannes Halldorsson the wrong way with the resulting penalty.

Lukaku made it 2-0 to Belgium minutes later, firing a close-range shot on the rebound that was judged to have crossed the line before Birkir Saevardsson managed to clear.

The Manchester United striker then added a third score 9 minutes from full time.

It was Belgium’s first game in the new competition and ended a run of 13 competitive matches unbeaten at home for Iceland, which was hammered 6-0 by Switzerland away in their tournament opener.Speech

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