Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque kicks a ball during their Euro 2016 qualifier soccer match against Ukraine at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville, March 27, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was left with a "bad taste in his mouth" after the holders laboured past visiting Ukraine 1-0 in Euro 2016 qualifying Group C on Friday.
Spain started brightly at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Sevilla, taking a deserved lead through Alvaro Morata in the 28th minute, but lost their way in the second half as Ukraine battled hard for an equaliser.
Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas had to come to the rescue several times to thwart dangerous midfielder Ruslan Rotan and a disappointing night for the hosts was made worse by an apparent groin injury to fullback Jordi Alba.
"In the first half we played a good game and we scored the goal," Del Bosque said.
"In the second our intensity dropped and we let them take control of the match.
"It's true that we were left with a bad taste in our mouths. We clearly need to improve but we have secured three extremely important points."
The victory nonetheless helped Spain stay hard on the heels of group leaders Slovakia, who won 3-0 at home to Luxembourg and have 15 points from five matches.
Spain, beaten 2-1 away to Slovakia in October, are second on 12 points, three ahead of Ukraine.
Del Bosque praised Morata, who he deployed up front in the absence of injured Chelsea striker Diego Costa.
The 22-year-old Juventus forward took his chance well after being sent clear by Koke but there was element of luck in the finish as the ball looped up over goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov off a defender and into the net.
"We are satisfied with Morata," Del Bosque said. "That's why we play him, so that he scores."
Alba's injury had forced the Barcelona left back's withdrawal from the squad, Del Bosque told a news conference, meaning he will miss Tuesday's friendly against Netherlands.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)