VALENCIA: A goal on his competitive international debut by Paco Alcacer helped Spain bounce back after a disastrous defence of their World Cup crown in Brazil as the European champions opened their qualifying campaign for the 2016 finals with a 5-1 win over Macedonia on Monday.
A Sergio Ramos penalty added to Alcacer’s goal put the hosts 2-0 up early on in Valencia, but Agim Ibraimi brought Macedonia back into the game from the penalty spot.
However, there was no doubt over the outcome after Sergio Busquets added a third just on the verge of half-time before David Silva and Pedro Rodriguez rounded off the scoring in the second period.
Despite widespread calls for radical change after La Roja’s early elimination in Brazil, coach Vicente del Bosque named 10 of his World Cup squad in the starting line-up with Alcacer the only new face.
However, his decision to stand by captain Iker Casillas was rewarded after just five minutes when the Real Madrid ‘keeper turned Ibraimi’s brilliantly struck free-kick behind for a corner.
Spain then looked to have put the game to bed with two goals inside 60 seconds as Ramos coolly chipped the ball from the penalty spot after Silva had been felled inside the area.
Alcacer then made the perfect start to his international career in his home city as he tapped home into an empty net from Juanfran’s neat cut-back.
However, Atletico Madrid right-back Juanfran undid his good work going forward 10 minutes later when he unnecessarily dived in and clipped Aleksandar Trajkovski inside the area, allowing Ibraimi to halve the deficit from the penalty spot.
The visitors were unable to build on the goal, though, as Spain dominated the rest of the match and could have won by a much more convincing scoreline but for some wayward finishing and fine goalkeeping by Macedonian captain Tomislav Pacovski.