Luis Enrique paid tribute to his his goalkeeper and his centre-forward, Unai Simon and Alvaro Morata, after the former went from howler to hero and the latter silenced critics with a match-winning goal.
‘Alvaro has had to put up with things that no one would want to have to put up with,’ said the Spain coach of recent abuse levelled at the forward from Spain supporters. ‘But on the pitch he has kept on delivering and with an important goal as well.’
Of his keeper Luis Enrique added: ‘Football is a sport of errors sometimes. But after the error Unai gives a lesson to everyone who plays the game of how not to let your head drop.
Luis Enrique gave particular praise to Unai Simon and Alvaro Morata after Spain’s 5-3 win
The Spanish striker put recent criticism behind him to give his country the lead in extra time
‘This is the most exciting game of the Euros so far. I don’t remember a game like it in my career. It was epic. For us there were good things and bad things but what stands out is the team’s ability to come good in adversity.
‘I hope we mature after this. Our biggest error was the way we handled the game in the last 10 minutes. But I think we were deserved winners.
‘I’ve said all along that I have 24 players who can all play from the start and people think I’m saying it for show but you saw it in this game. The players that came on were superb. I look at the bench and think anyone I pick will not let us down.
‘It’s normal that we show inexperience sometimes but what no one can doubt is that this team can score goals and play good football.’
Simon made a complete mess of a backpass in the first half but bounced back superbly well
Unai also received the backing of defender Cesar Azpilicueta who was the first to console him when he made his first half mistake. ‘We all make mistakes and Unai’s reaction was to do everything to make up for it,’ he said. ‘He saved us several times. You can’t ask anymore. Players are human and make mistakes.’
Azpilicueta scored his first in 27 games for Spain. ‘It’s important because it’s my first goal but it’s more important because we are through,’ he added.
‘We suffered so much. We’ve been unable to get past the knockout stage in recent tournaments so this is a huge step.
‘We came back from being behind and it seemed as if it was all over but we were better extra-time and deserved it.
‘We need to recover but that’s always easier to do when you have won.’
Ferran Torres was already looking forward to the quarter-final: ‘We can dream of course. We know we have to take it one game at a time but we believe in ourselves. The whole thing about Spain not having goals in them – I never believed that.’
Cesar Azpilicueta got his name on the scoresheet and admitted Spain suffered in the match
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