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Euro 2024: Red-hot Spain cruise past Croatia in Group B opener

Spain were out of the gates in a flash as they secured a comfortable 3-0 victory over Croatia in their Euro 2024 opener in Berlin on Saturday.

Captain Alvaro Morata set La Roja on their way in Group B with a low finish after 29 minutes before Fabian Ruiz soon doubled the lead after some quick footwork inside the Croatia penalty area.

Dani Carvajal volleyed home a third from close range in first-half stoppage time, with Croatia seeing a late goal from substitute Bruno Petkovic ruled out for encroachment when he slotted in a cross after his initial penalty had been saved.

Barcelona forward Lamine Yamal - whose start saw him become the youngest player to feature at a European Championship aged 16 and 338 days - created an early opening for Morata, whose scuffed 20-yard effort lacked power.

Croatia - beaten on penalties by Spain in last year's Nations League final - slowly started to build a spell of possession, with Ante Budimir heading wide after the ball was swung in from the right.

Spain broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when Ruiz played a central ball up to Atletico Madrid striker Morata, who held off his marker and slotted past Dominik Livakovic.

Croatia soon fell further behind as Ruiz doubled Spain's lead in the 32nd minute.

The Paris St Germain midfielder collected the ball 20 yards out before showing quick feet to dart into the penalty area and drill into the bottom corner.

Croatia almost hit back straight away as Marcelo Brozovic's 18-yard strike was saved by Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon and Lovro Majer fired into the side netting.

Spain scored again late in the half when Real Madrid defender Carvajal darted through a crowded six-yard box to volley in Yamal's curling cross.

Croatia - whose fans had packed out the Olympiastadion - were close to conceding a fourth early in the second half as Livakovic palmed away Yamal's curling effort which looked destined for the far corner.

As the hour mark approached, Croatia finally caused some panic in the Spain penalty area when Josip Stanisic's goalbound effort was blocked by Marc Cucurella before Budimir's header was punched clear by Simon.

Croatia were awarded a penalty with 12 minutes left after Simon lost the ball and Petkovic looked to slot into an open net before he went down under a challenge from Rodri.

English referee Michael Oliver swiftly pointed to the spot and showed a yellow card to the Manchester City midfielder, who looked to have made minimal contact at best.

Petkovic saw his spot-kick saved by Simon - but Ivan Perisic cut the loose ball back through the six-yard box where his team-mate tapped in.

The goal, though, was ruled out for encroachment by Perisic into the left side of the area, and Luis de la Fuente's side saw through the closing stages to complete a comfortable win.
 

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