Euro 2004 qualifier
Spain 2 - Norway 1
Michel Salgado, Iván Helguera, Marchena, Puyol; Albelda, Baraja;
Etxeberría (Joaquín 76'), Raúl, Reyes (Vicente 76');
Fernando Torres (Valerón 68'). 4-2-3-1.
Spain struggled to win the first leg of their Euro 2004 play off against Norway, and only go into next Wednesday's return match with a narrow lead thanks to a late own goal. Iñaki Sáez opted for youth in his line up, with the on-form Reyes joining Fernando Torres in attack, and it looked as though Spain were on the right track when Torres broke free only to chip over the keeper but wide of the net in the opening minutes. Raúl had a shot cleared by the defence and Baraja shot wide on the follow up, and Torres had a penalty appeal turned down when he fell under Lundekvam's challenge. But then disaster struck, and virtually the first time that the Scandinavians entered the Spanish half they scored, a long ball from the left being headed on by Strand for Iversen to volley past Casillas.
The Wolverhampton Wanderers striker had already scored once against Spain in the Euro 2000 finals, a goal which sticks in the memory due to the mistake by Molina which cost him a place in the side, and for a few minutes the home side were shell-shocked. But eventually they recovered the momentum, and Raúl levelled the scores with a glancing header from a Reyes free kick, the team captain's 36th goal for his country.
For the rest of the first half Spain were on top, and Johnsen produced a brilliant save, blocking a Reyes effort with his body from point blank range. The visitors were always dangerous on the counterattack though against a shaky defence, and Casillas rescued his side when got a foot to a shot from Flo to turn it away for a corner. But just before half time Albelda almost put his side in front with a long shot which grazed the foot of the post.
Norway slowed the game down though after the break as the rain fell, and Spain started to get bogged down. Sáez turned to reinforcements, but much to the disappointment of the crowd took off Torres to bring on Valerón. And it was not until Joaquín and Vicente entered into the fray a quarter of an hour from the end that they started to create some decent chances. Joaquín in particular caused problems with his darting runs down the right wing, and on one of those he fired in a low shot which Baraja played on, Henning Berg turning the ball past his own keeper and in to the net.
After that it was a frantic chase to score another goal to give them the edge for the second leg, but Johnsen was having the game of his life and made an incredible double save from Raúl near the end. The scoreboard reflected 34 shots from the locals and only four from the visitors, but the scoreline was what counted and Spain now face a very difficult second leg in the cold of Oslo next Wednesday. How they wish they could have got one or two more to make that task a bit easier.