Lamine Yamal brightened the gloom that has descended over Spanish football by becoming the country’s youngest-ever player and goalscorer as La Roja thrashed Georgia 7-1 on Friday to get their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign back on track.
On a night of goals, Scotland beat Cyprus 3-0 and Croatia put five past Latvia while Portugal was made to work a bit harder, Bruno Fernandes on target in the 1-0 win in Slovakia.
The build-up to Spain’s match was tarnished by the ongoing saga of federation president Luis Rubiales and his kiss on the lips of women’s midfielder Jenni Hermoso in the aftermath of their World Cup triumph over England in Sydney last month.
Spanish public prosecutors announced on Friday they had filed a lawsuit against Rubiales for sexual assault and coercion.
Spain’s mood in the Euro qualifiers was also not helped by a defeat by Scotland in their second game had left them fourth in Group A.
But they climbed up to second with a big win in Tbilisi, inspired by an Alvaro Morata hat-trick — although the Atletico Madrid forward’s treble takes second place to Yamal’s superb first appearance for his country at 16 years and 57 days old.
The Barcelona teenager came on from the bench with Nico Williams after 43 minutes to replace Marco Asensio and Dani Olmo, who had both suffered knocks, with Spain 4-0 up and cruising.
Yamal finished lethally in the 74th minute to send Spain 7-1 up after Williams found him with a cut-back.
“I’m happy, for my debut and my goal,” Yamal told Spanish broadcaster Teledeporte.
“It’s a dream, I’m living in a dream right now.”Morata’s opener in the 22nd minute was followed by Solomon Kvirkvelia’s own goal.
Olmo drilled the third past Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili in the 38th minute and Morata added the fourth after a slick exchange with Ruiz.
Spain was forced to change both their wingers before half-time and Yamal gratefully grabbed the chance to make history.
Watford’s Giorgi Chakvetadze pulled one back for Georgia before Morata completed his hat-trick, Williams and Yamal completing the rout.
Spain, who face Cyprus in Granada on Tuesday, remain nine points behind Scotland, who have played two games more.
The Scots made it five wins from five as Scott McTominay, Ryan Porteous, and John McGinn all struck within the opening half an hour in Larnaca.
Steve Clarke’s men could seal their place in Germany next year with three games to spare should Norway and Georgia draw in Oslo on Tuesday.
“We know we’re close, but we’re not there yet,” said McGinn.
“We need to be responsible, keep our mature heads on. We’re excited, there’s no doubt about that. Tonight’s a huge win, five wins from five.
“Only our wee country could mess it up from here, so we need to stay calm.”
– Fernandes for Portugal -Bruno Fernandes earned Portugal a fifth consecutive triumph in qualifying, his goal securing a 1-0 win over Slovakia in Bratislava.
Roberto Martinez’s side have not conceded a goal in Group J, scoring 15, and are five points clear of their opponents who are second after being beaten for the first time.
Cristiano Ronaldo, making his 201st Portugal appearance at the age of 38, scored against Slovakia back in 2005 in a World Cup qualifier, one of a record 850 career goals, but could not add to the tally on this occasion.
In the 43rd minute, Fernandes sent Portugal ahead, drilling home from a tight angle into the far corner, his third goal of the qualifying campaign.
The Euro 2016 winners host Luxembourg on Monday in their next qualifier, while Slovakia welcomes Liechtenstein.
The Luxembourgers claimed a rare victory with a 3-1 win over Iceland while Liechtenstein went down 2-1 to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bruno Petkovic scored twice and set up Luka Ivanusec for another in the first half to put Croatia in control of their tie against Latvia.
Andrej Kramaric and Mario Pasalic completed a 5-0 win with goals in the second period.
Croatia are second in Group D, three points behind Turkey who were held to a 1-1 draw by Armenia, who play Croatia on Monday.