Published:  12:37 AM, 12 June 2019

Spain cruise past Sweden

Spain cruise past Sweden Spain's Sergio Ramos celebrates after scoring the opening goal with a penalty against Sweden on Monday in Madrid. -AP

Sergio Ramos and Alvaro Morata both scored penalties as Spain beat Sweden 3-0 on Monday to keep their perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying intact.Spain struggled to break down a determined Sweden defence at the Santiago Bernabeu until Ramos struck in the 64th minute after Sebastian Larsson blocked Marco Asensio's cross with his hand.

Two late goals in two minutes then gave the score a deceptively comfortable look as Ramos deferred a second spot-kick to Morata, who had won the foul, before Mikel Oyarzabal curled in a third. Victory means Spain stay top of Group F, now five points clear of second-placed Sweden, with four wins out of four.

Their advantage reflects an impressive return to form after a disappointing performance in the UEFA Nations League, even if the previous three successes came against Norway, Malta and the Faroe Islands.

Luis Enrique has been absent from matches since missing Spain's win over Malta in March due to a family emergency and he was away from the bench again, leaving his assistant Robert Moreno in charge. Moreno confirmed on Sunday he has been in constant contact with Luis Enrique and Ramos has insisted the situation is not affecting the players. There have been many given a chance to impress, with eight changes from the 4-1 thrashing of the Faroe Islands on Friday taking the number of starters to 24 in the last four games alone.

Only three - Ramos, Isco and Kepa Arrizabalaga - retained their places. Kepa's third consecutive start suggests he is not just an alternative to Manchester United's David de Gea but now the side's preferred goalkeeper.

Sweden's disciplined defence carried them to the World Cup quarter-finals almost a year ago and Spain only really rattled them for five minutes in the opening half. The first of a flurry of chances saw Fabian Ruiz's shot palmed over by Robin Olsen, who then parried away a dipping volley from Dani Parejo.

Ramos' header also had to be pushed wide and even when Spain had the ball in the net it was crossed off, incorrectly, for offside, after Rodrigo Moreno tapped in Parejo's cutback.

---AFP, Madrid

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