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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Abel Ruiz double as Spain’s attacking masterclass sees off Niger

FC Barcelona’s Abel Ruiz scored twice, while Cesar Gelabert and Sergio Gomez scored one each in what was a comprehensive win for Spain against Niger in their FIFA U-17 World Cup Group D match.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 10, 2017 21:38 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Kochi
FIFA U-17 World Cup,Spain vs Niger,ESP vs NIG
Abel Ruiz of Spain scores his second goal during their FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 Group D match against Niger at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi on Tuesday. (FIFA via Getty Images)

Spain put on a mesmerising attacking display as they handed Niger a 4-0 thrashing to complete their first win of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday. (ESP vs NIG match highlights)

Barcelona’s Abel Ruiz scored twice, while Cesar Gelabert and Sergio Gomez scored one each in what was a comprehensive win for the Santiago Denia-coached side. (POINTS TABLE | RESULTS | SCHEDULE)

Niger were the better team off the blocks as they dominated the game in the opening minutes, much to the surprise of Spain and the crowd here. The first eight minutes saw Niger earn three corners, albeit they failed to create any significant chance out of them. In the ninth minute, forward Ibrahim Boubacar managed to leap over the Spanish backline to meet the end of a cross. His header, however, went straight into the hands of Spain goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez.

A minute later, Spain managed to create their first chance of the game, with striker Abel Ruiz finding himself inside the Nigerien box. His shot, however, was saved by goalkeeper Khaled Lawali.

As the game progressed, Spain started to settle down and began to enjoy more possession. The European champions played with more flair, and in the 21st minute, they took advantage of a defensive error to take the lead.

As full-back Juan Miranda sent in a low cross from the left, the Niger defence failed to clear the ball despite being presented with a chance. It ended up at the feet of Barcelona starlet Ruiz, who calmly tapped in for his side’s first goal of the match.

Ruiz and Miranda almost reversed roles a few minutes later as the former’s cross found the latter in space just a few feet in front of goal. Miranda, however, headed the ball over the bar.

Abel Ruiz himself missed a golden chance to double his side’s lead when he headed over a lobbed cross from Mohamed Moukhliss in the 32nd minute. He made no mistake, however, when nine minutes later, Gomez passed to him from a free kick near the corner.

Ruiz’s first shot was blocked, but he finished off from the rebound to double Spain’s lead.

In the 45th minute, defender Victor Chust Garcia missed a free header from a corner, but Spain scored just a minute later after Niger custodian Khaled made a diving save from a Ruiz shot. The ball fell to Gomez on the left, who crossed for forward Cesar Gelabert to volley in from close range.

Proceedings in the second half moved much slower than in the first, as Spain looked comfortable with keeping possession.

Niger coach Tiemogo Soumalia brought on striker Hamid Galissoune in the 61st minute in place of midfielder Karim Tinni, but it made little difference as Spain continued to control possession.

Spain’s Gelabert had a shot acrobatically saved in the 69th minute after a clever pass by Ferran Torres. Five minutes later, Ruiz missed a good chance to complete his hat-trick as his shot from close range went meters wide.

The Europeans finally scored their fourth when Sergio Gomez scored from outside the box after a cross had been cleared by the Nigerien defence. Gomez’s goal capped off a brilliant individual performance as Spain notched their first points of the tournament.

Niger blame referee

At his post-match press conference, Niger coach Ismaila Tiemoko blamed the referee for holding his team back from playing their style of football.

“Every time the game was in hands, something went against us from the referee. In all the cases when we were in physical contact with spain, fouls were given against us which pushed us back a bit,” Soumalia told reporter.

“If there’s one thing I want the team to learn from this match, it’s to keep possession of the ball,” he went on to add.

Spain coach Santiago Denia disagreed with Ismaila Tiemoko’s views on the referee. “I don’t think so (that the referee gave Spain special protection). I respect what the referees do. I have no comments regarding what the referees did or didn’t do. They did their job well,” he said.

“Niger pressed us in opening minutes. It was difficult (to play) with the pressure they put, but after the opening ten minutes, it was easier for us,” he added.

First Published: Oct 10, 2017 20:29 IST