MADRID – Spain lost 1-0 on Tuesday to Ukraine in UEFA Nations League top-division action, although it caught a break when a goal fest between Germany and Switzerland ended in a 3-3 draw.
Just over a month after routing the Ukrainians 4-0 in Madrid in this same competition, Luis Enrique’s men paid dearly in Kiev for their inability to convert chances in the final third.
La Roja heaped plenty of pressure on its opponent’s goal at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, but Ukraine was up to the challenge on defense and also proved to be opportunistic in a rare attacking opportunity.
That chance came in the 76th minute of the contest, when Viktor Tsyhankov received a pass from Andriy Yarmolenko and fired a shot past Spanish netminder David de Gea.
The late strike stunned the favored Spanish side, whose last-gasp move to insert star defender Sergio Ramos in attack failed to generate the equalizer.
Afterward, Luis Enrique lamented his team’s missed opportunities.
“We had chances in the first half, and a goal would have settled us down. In the second half, we took more risks and in panic mode we didn’t control their play in transition,” Spain’s head coach said.
Even so, Germany failed to capitalize on Spain’s misstep, only managing one point at RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne against a visiting Swiss side that was surprisingly potent in attack.
It could have been worse for the Germans, whose leaky defense led to first-half goals by Dinamo Zagreb’s Mario Gavranovic and Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler in the fifth and 26th minutes, respectively.
A pair of recent signings by Premier League club Chelsea spearheaded the hosts’ comeback, with Timo Werner putting Germany on the scoreboard in the 28th minute and Kai Havertz notching the equalizer shortly after the intermission.
The Swiss grabbed a 3-2 lead on Gavranovic’s second goal of the night just before the hour mark, but Serge Gnabry – a key piece in Bayern Munich’s recent Champions League title run – scored on a back-heeled shot off a pass from Werner to draw Germany level once again.
Germany still had plenty of time to score the game-winner, but they were a bit too impatient and ended up having to settle for a single point.
“We did a lot well going forward, but we made mistakes at the back and we need to fix that,” Germany’s head coach, Joachim Löw, said afterward. “We showed good character to fight back. We battled hard.”
Spain (seven points) continues to lead Nations League A’s Group 4 after Tuesday’s matches, although second-place Germany and third-place Ukraine are just one point behind with two more rounds of round-robin matches still to be played in November.
The winner of Group 4 and the winners of League A’s three other groups will qualify for the four-team Nations League Finals, which will take place in October 2021.