Spain leave it late as Pique’s header beats Czech Republic

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Spain beat the Czech Republic 1-0 in Toulouse on Monday in their Group D opener at EURO 2016.

The two-time reigning champs huffed and puffed throughout but had to wait until three minutes from normal time to grab the win after Gerard Pique headed home just when it looked like the Czechs would hold on for a point.

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It was hardly a vintage display from Vicente del Bosque’s boys but they got the job done.

In a soggy Toulouse Spain, predictably, had most of the ball but failed to break through in the opening 45 minutes.

Alvarao Morata had a shot from close range saved by Petr Cech after David Silva had broken free to cross, while Morata was again denied by Cech as the Arsenal goalkeeper tipped his low shot across goal just wide.

Right on half time the Czech Republic had their only chance of the opening half with Tomas Necid breaking through but he hit his shot straight at David De Gea.

In the second half Spain continued to press with some heroic last-ditch defending from the Czech Republic denying the Spanish an opener, as Roman Hubnik almost put into his own net but he deflected Morata’s shot against the post.

At the other end Hubnik forced De Gea into a save as he poked an effort goalwards from a free kick and the Czech Republic then came agonizingly close as Cesc Fabregas cleared off the line, then Sergio Ramos flicked a cross away just as four Czech players lined up to head home.

Spain battled back into the game and Silva sent a powerful left-footed effort wide after patient build up play and Spain looked to be in on multiple occasions but the Czech defenders kept making sublime last-ditch tackles.

Finally, the game-winner arrived in the 87th minute as Andre Iniesta’s perfect cross to the back post was headed home by Pique — his first goal in a major tournament — to send the Spanish fans wild. 1-0, and that’s how it ended as De Gea pushed away Vladimir Darida’s volley in stoppage time to preserve the three points.