(Reuters) – Forward Álvaro Morata enjoyed a sweet redemption as he helped the Spanish team to a spectacular 5-3 win over Croatia on Monday after extra time to reach the Euro Cup quarter-finals in a dramatic match.
Spain was at a disadvantage in the first half with an own goal by Pedri from near the middle of the field after an incredible error by goalkeeper Unai Simón, but it was 3-1 with goals from Pablo Sarabia, César Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres .
However, Croatia staged an unthinkable comeback with goals from Mislav Orsic in the 85th minute and a header from Mario Pasalic in injury time to force extra time.
Spain, however, showed tremendous character and prevailed thanks to a superb goal from Morata in the 100th minute and a goal from Mikel Oyarzabal in the 103rd minute.
Spain thus celebrated its first victory in a knockout phase in a major tournament since winning Euro 2012 to prepare for a quarter-final against France or Switzerland in St. Petersburg on Friday.
Croatia, by contrast, will return home with their heads held high, although they must continue to hope to win a knockout match at a European Championship.
Morata has been the center of attention for Spain’s campaign amid irregular performances and criticism from his own supporters.
His wife and children were intimidated by supporters in Seville and he complained of facing death threats before last week’s 5-0 victory over Slovakia, prompting coach Luis Enrique to urge the police to act.