Yamal becomes Spain's youngest player and scorer in Georgia rout

AFP , Saturday 9 Sep 2023

Lamine Yamal became Spain's youngest ever player and goalscorer as La Roja thrashed Georgia 7-1 on Friday to get their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign back on track.

Spain's Lamine Yamal (L) and Georgia's midfielder Luka Gagnidze fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying first round group A football match between Georgia and Spain in Tbilisi on September 8, 2023. Photo: AFP


Defeat by leaders Scotland in their second game left Spain fourth in Group A but they climbed up to second with a big win in Tbilisi, inspired by an Alvaro Morata hat-trick.

However despite the Atletico Madrid forward's treble, the game will be remembered for Yamal's superb first appearance for his country at 16 years and 57 days old.

The Barcelona teenager came on from the bench with Nico Williams after 43 minutes to replace Marco Asensio and Dani Olmo, who had both suffered knocks, with Spain 4-0 up and cruising.

Yamal finished lethally in the 74th minute to send Spain 7-1 up after Williams found him with a cut-back.

The build up to the match was tarnished by Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales being suspended by FIFA and charged with sexual assault by Spanish prosecutors, after he forcibly kissed women's midfielder Jenni Hermoso.

Spain won the women's World Cup in August but the country's federation was shellshocked by Rubiales' actions at the medal ceremony in Sydney and the subsequent fall-out.

Men's coach Luis de La Fuente led the team to Nations League glory in June to ease the pressure on his shoulders, which was ramped up again after he applauded Rubiales when he refused to resign.

The federation reiterated they backed the coach, who replaced Luis Enrique in December after Spain's failed World Cup campaign in Qatar.

De la Fuente pledged a similar style but a more direct approach in attack and that was seen in Morata's opener -- the forward headed home Asensio's cross after 22 minutes.

Spain moved further ahead when Fabian Ruiz's cross was put through his own net by Solomon Kvirkvelia.

Olmo drilled the third past Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili in the 38th minute and Morata added the fourth after a slick exchange with Ruiz.

Spain were forced to change both their wingers before half-time and Yamal gratefully grabbed the chance to make history.

Watford's Giorgi Chakvetadze drilled past Unai Simon to pull one back for Georgia first, with the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper letting the shot squirm away from him in the rain.

Morata restored Spain's ample advantage with the aid of a deflection, before Williams produced a fine sixth with an individual dribble and finish.

Yamal completed the rout with his own fine strike to make a double dose of history.

Spain face Cyprus in Granada on Tuesday in another Euro 2024 qualifier.

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