Now of course Georgia did not win at home to Spain. Quite the opposite, Dani Olmo’s swerving late strike parried into the top corner by Giorgi Loria as the visitors overcame a hal-time deficit to win 2-1 and save their World Cup qualifying campaign from the mire. Yet both sides deserve enormous credit for this thrilling contest, one where Willy Sagnol’s men deserved at least a point.
You would not have said that of Spain after 45 minutes. That the team in red was so passive for so long on the road may not come as much surprise to Spaniards. In five away games since the resumption of international football in September, Luis Enrique’s side had scored three goals, never netting more than once in a game. Indeed the heavy Nations League wins over Ukraine and Germany are beginning to feel like freak outliers for a team that struggles to turn possession into clear-cut opportunities.
That was certainly true in the first half in Tblisi, where 75 percent possession brought one shot on target, an early effort by Ferran Torres. Georgia took their chance with an excellent counter-attack, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia punishing Pedro Porro for leaving space in behind him and finishing with an excellent low drive. It was a lesson in attacking efficiency that Spain would have done well to heed.
They did as Ferran Torres netted the equalizer early in the first half but it was to the credit of Sagnol’s side, cheered on by a smattering of their own supporters in the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, that they responded to that setback with greater intensity and energy, pursuing the winner with ever more aggression. Equally Spain were moving the ball with greater speed and purpose with Olmo and Thiago setting the tone after their arrival in the second half
This was no repeat of Spain’s 0-0 draw with Greece; Georgia were determined to win. Equally that meant they were willing to risk losing the game and a cutback from the excellent Marcos Llorente in the 86th minute led to pin-balling in the home penalty area. Just as the hosts looked like they might hold on for a richly deserved point they were undone by the outstanding moment of the game, Olmo picking the ball up outside the box, spinning and quickly firing at goal.
A point would have been a serious problem for Spain after they were held by Greece with Sweden threatening to be serious rivals for top spot. As is they will return from the Caucasus bruised but