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Tempers high after Spain saved at the death by VAR decision

Spain 2 (Isco 19’, I. Aspas 90+1’)

Morocco 2 (Boutaib 14’, Y. En-Nesyri 81’)

By Caleb Lawrence

Spain has finished on top of Group B after drawing 2-2 against Morocco in Kaliningrad thanks to a controversial late goal by substitute Iago Aspas with VAR overturning the sideline official’s original offside call.

Morocco looked to have caused an upset after scoring in the 81st minute when substitute Youseff En-Nesyri header from Morocco’s first corner of the game left Spain keeper David De Gea rooted to the spot.

But as the match went into injury time, the Spaniards hastily took a short corner allowing Dani Carvajal to whip a cross into the six-yard box and Aspas scored with a neat back-heel past Moroccan keeper Monir El Kajoui.

The celebrations were put on hold when Aspas was ruled offside, but resumed after the on-field ruling was overturned by VAR.

The decision saw tempers boil over with arguments near the Spanish technical area where Moroccan left back Achraf Hakimi clashed with Spain coach Fernando Hierro, resulting in Hakimi picking up a yellow card.

The opening 10 minutes set a feisty tone to the game, with a studs-up challenge on Moroccan striker Khalid Boutaib by Spain defender Gerrard Pique, who got the ball first but still earned the ire of the Moroccan players.

Against expectations, Morocco opened the scoring in the 14th minute after a mix-up by Spain’s Andreas Iniesta and Sergio Ramos allowed Khalid Boutaib to race away and bury the ball past De Gea.

It did not take long for Spain to respond, with veteran Andreas Iniesta unlocking the defence on the left-hand edge of the penalty area and crossing to Isco, who thumped the ball into the net from close range.

Spain had 75 per cent of possession in the match and Morocco tried to counter with a physical approach that ended up with six of their players receiving yellow cards.

The result now means Spain finish top of group B, ahead of Portugal who sit in second.

Morocco end their 2018 World Cup in last place in group B with one point from its three matches.

Spain now face Russia in the first round of the knockout stages next Monday, with Portugal to face Uruguay on Sunday.

Team line-ups

Spain: D. De Gea (GK), D. Carvajal, G. Pique, S. Ramos, J. Alba, S. Busquets, T. Alcantara (74’), D. Silva (84’), A. Iniesta, Isco, D. Costa (74’)
Substitutes used: M. Asensio (74’), I. Aspas (74’), Rodrigo (84’)

Morocco: Munir (GK), N.Dirar, M. Da Costa, R. Saiss, A. Hakimi, K. El Ahmadi, M. Boussoufa, N. Amrabat, Y. Belhanda (63’), H. Ziyech (85’), K. Boutaib (71’)
Substitutes used: F. Fajr (63), Y. En-Nesyri (71’), A. Bouhaddouz (85’)

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