Finland stun Spain to ruin Ramos' record breaking night
RESULT: Spain 1 (Ramos 49') Finland 1 (Pukki 79')
The script was written and Sergio Ramos followed it to the letter as he celebrated his 100th international appearance for Spain by opening the scoring in Gijon.
But Finland then ripped it to pieces by claiming a shock point with a late equaliser from Teemu Pukki, leaving Spain’s hopes of winning their group in the balance. La Roja now trail France by two points and travel to Paris on Tuesday knowing they have to win.
Predictably, a Spain side containing no less than seven Barcelona players were on the front foot from the opening whistle and threatened through David Villa and Cesc Fabregas inside the opening five minutes.
But Finland’s tightly packed defence was proving tough to break down, and Vicente Del Bosque’s world champions were unable to create any clear chances inside the opening 20 minutes as Finland keeper Nikki Maenpaa was untroubled by hopeful long range strikes from Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta.
Santi Cazorla’s effort from the edge of the box demanded a more difficult save from Maenpaa and the Arsenal man then sliced a decent chance high and wide.
It took Finland nearly half an hour to register their first shot, when Rubin Kazan midfielder Roman Eremenko dragged his 25 yard strike well wide.
Fabregas sent a dangerous delivery flashing across the face of goal and David Silva had a shot deflected narrowly wide as Spain continued to look for the opener, but the resolute and disciplined Finns refused to give way and they reached the interval with the deadlock intact.
The Spanish procession towards goal continued early in the second half as opener finally arrived with Ramos’ moment of glory via the unlikely route of a set piece. Silva swung in a right wing corner – Spain’s 11th of the night – and Ramos held off his marker to send a perfectly placed header inches inside the right hand corner.
Ramos then attempted to double up with a long-range strike that flew narrowly wide as a second Spanish goal looked inevitable. But the hosts then lost their way a little and Del Bosque replaced the largely ineffective Villa with Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo.
Just as the action seemed to be drifting towards a routine, if unconvincing home win, Finland stunned the capacity Gijon crowd with an entirely unexpected leveller. The visitors broke quickly down the left wing and Alexander Ring delivered the perfect cross for striker Teemu Pukki to confidently convert with his team’s first shot on target of the evening.
Spain were stunned and looked unlikely to regain the lead as the game ticked into the final few minutes. Negredo headed narrowly wide before Silva caused a goalmouth scuffle by attempting to kick the ball out of Maenpaa’s hands, and Spain ran out of time.
Lack of penetration
Haven't we been here before? Two weeks ago we were talking about Barcelona's inability to turn their possession into goalscoring chances, and exactly the same thing happened in Gijon as the hosts dominated more than 80% of the possession but created few clear opportunities as the Finnish defence held firm.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Andres Iniesta (Spain)
Sergio Ramos will grab the headlines after marking his 100th appearance with a goal, but Iniesta was the driving force of this Spanish performance. In the absence of injured clubmate Xavi, the dribbling wizard assumed a greater responsibility with practically every attack going through him.
Was this an isolated one-off or the onset of a long-term decline for the world champions? It's too early to tell, but they'll need to emulate Barcelona's performance against AC Milan by overcoming their lack of penetration if they want to retain their status as world number one. The only problem: unlike Barca, they don't have Lionel Messi.