Spain emerged the 1-2 winner from its friendly against Equatorial Guinea in Malabo on Saturday in a match that, beyond the controversy over the decision to play in the African dictatorship, nearly turned into a bust-up.
The robust tackling of the home team at times put the wellbeing of the Spanish players at risk. Xabi Alonso got the worst of it: returning to the national squad after nine months out, the Real Madrid midfielder limped off after 43 minutes with a severely bruised left ankle. Jesús Navas also had to be substituted in the second half.
“They didn’t let us play,” said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque after the match. “They were a very aggressive side, which made us uncomfortable. The players were a bit inhibited and we played very deep.”
Santi Cazorla made the most of goalkeeper Danilo’s fumbling a Juan Mata cross to put Spain ahead on 13 minutes before Jimmy Bermúdez’s header leveled the match. Juanfran scored his first international goal to give Spain victory just before half time.
Also suffering during this international break was Alonso’s Real midfield teammate Sami Khedira, who will be out for six months after tearing his cruciate ligament in Germany’s 1-1 tie with Italy on Friday. In Friday’s World Cup playoff match between Portugal and Sweden in Lisbon, Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo headed the goal that gave the home side a 1-0 advantage going into Tuesday’s deciding second leg in Stockholm.