SEVILLE, Spain — A bizarre blunder by the goalkeeper helped Spain find its scoring touch at the European Championship.
And it also helped them advance to the round of 16.
An embarrassing own-goal by goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka in the first half put Spain on its way to a 5-0 victory Wednesday, coming only minutes after the hosts had missed another penalty kick and wasted more scoring chances.
Dúbravka saved that early penalty from Álvaro Morata but then clumsily knocked the ball into his own net after it ricocheted high into the air off a shot by Pablo Sarabia in the 30th minute.
Dúbravka stood just off his line and waited for the ball to descend. He jumped to swat it over for a corner, but the ball veered to his left and rolled off his right hand and into the net.
Desolate, he stood by the goal line as some of his teammates came over to support him.
Aymeric Laporte added to Spain’s lead before halftime, and Sarabia, Ferran Torres and another own-goal in the second half made it five for “La Roja,” which had been facing elimination in front of its own fans.
The victory allowed Spain to advance in second place in Group E with five points. The team will next play Croatia in Copenhagen on Monday. Sweden, which defeated Poland 3-2 in the other match, won the group.
“I think this group has shown that it can overcome challenges,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said. “We are gaining momentum. I’m sure that if you ask any of our rivals no one will be happy to have to play against us.”
The result eliminated Slovakia, which needed at least a draw to guarantee its place in the next round.
Slovakia, which reached the last 16 at Euro 2016 in France, won its first match this year with the help of an own-goal by Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
“It is difficult to play against such opposition. You need to be well organized, you need to play well in defense, and we didn’t do that. To make such mistakes against Spain, that is simply not acceptable," Slovakia coach Stefan Tarkovic said. “After the third goal, I think it turned into an exhibition match for Spain.”
The game marked the return of Spain captain Sergio Busquets after he spent time in isolation following a positive test result of the coronavirus ahead of the tournament.
“It was the type of match we needed. It gives us a big boost going forward,” an emotional Busquets said. “This will make us stronger. We are on the right path.”
Busquets, voted the man of the match, gave Spain the balance it needed in midfield after it opened with two disappointing draws. The only player left from the World Cup-winning squad in 2010, Busquets helped the team create chances in attack and keep the defense more protected.
After the own-goal by Dúbravka, Laporte added to Spain’s lead with a header in first-half injury time after a nice buildup that started with a neat lob pass from youngster Pedri González to Gerard Moreno.
Sarabia got his goal from inside the area after a cross by Jordi Alba in the 56th, and Torres increased the lead with a nice back-heel flick from close range in the 67th.
An own-goal by Juraj Kucka, who found his net while trying to clear a shot by Pau Torres, finished off the rout at La Cartuja Stadium. It was the biggest margin of victory at the European Championship since Sweden defeated Bulgaria 5-0 in 2004. No team has ever won by more than five at the European Championship.
Slovakia finished with no attempts on target.
Luis Enrique made four changes from the team that was held to a 1-1 draw by Poland, bringing in veterans Busquets, César Azpilicueta and Sarabia, in addition to Eric García on defense.
Spain missed its second penalty at Euro 2020 when Dúbravka dived to his right to stop Morata’s mid-height shot in the 12th minute. The penalty came after Koke Resurrección was kicked by midfielder Jakub Hromada inside the area. The referee initially signaled a foul against Koke but the call was reversed by video review.
Moreno had missed a penalty against Poland.
“I had said before the match that we needed to uncork the cava (bottle),” Luis Enrique said, meaning the goals would eventually start flowing. “Today we uncorked it.”
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press