Euro 2016: Pique clicks after 66 blanks to hand Spain win

Spain's Gerard Pique scores the only goal of the game against Czech Republic  in Toulouse (Picture: Manu Fernandez/AP).
Spain's Gerard Pique scores the only goal of the game against Czech Republic in Toulouse (Picture: Manu Fernandez/AP).
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Gerard Pique revealed his relief after he struck late to start Spain’s European Championship defence with a victory.

The defender’s 87th-minute goal sealed victory over Czech Republic, putting them joint top of Group D with Croatia.

Spain dominated, but had to wait until Pique nodded in Andres Iniesta’s cross with three minutes left, finally beating goalkeeper Petr Cech, in their opening Euro 2016 game in Toulouse.

Barcelona’s former Manchester United centre-back said: “We played really well, controlled the game, made lots of chances, but the ball did not want to go in.

“I had the fortune to score the goal, but the team all played very well.

“We attacked with a lot of order, opened up the field well, and had to keep attacking until the goal came.

“It was a great ball from Iniesta. We wanted to win as we knew it was very important to get three points in our first game. Now we will wait on the second game.”

Pique scored four goals in his first 12 Spain outings, but his late header was his first goal for his country in 66 matches.

Cech also made more passes in this game than any other Czech Republic player (36) to underline Spain’s dominance.

The Arsenal goalkeeper twice denied Alvaro Morata and saved from Jordi Alba and David Silva while Roman Hubnik almost scored an own goal when his clearance hit a post.

Man of the match Iniesta insisted Spain will not ditch their possession-based style, which saw them win the last two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup, despite almost failing to win.

“This is our path,” he said. “We have achieved many successes doing this. It is our way.

“We have a very good team, can overcome any rival, although it is always difficult.

“This win will keep us relaxed, these are an important three points, and now we will keep going.

“We have played many games like this before. We try and push and push and push, so that the defence makes a mistake in the end and we can score.

“Football is like this, sometimes you have the ball a lot, and in the end the game tilted our way and we are very happy.”