Dani Olmo spared Spain’s blushes with a 92nd-minute strike to earn his side a 2-1 comeback win over Georgia in Sunday’s World Cup 2022 qualifier in Tbilisi.
Spain were held 1-1 by Greece in their Group B opener on Thursday and were heading for another shock result at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia gave Georgia the lead just before the interval, but Ferran Torres equalised 11 minutes into the second period and half-time substitute Olmo scored a long-range goal in added time.
Georgia ended the game with 10 men after Levan Shengelia was sent off for a challenge on Pedri as Spain avoided an embarrassing result on their travels.
¡¡¡FINAAAAAAAAL EN GEORGIA!!!
¡¡Os dijimos que había que creer en este equipo!!
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) March 28, 2021
Torres forced Giorgi Loria into a good save after 11 minutes but that proved to be Spain’s only attempt on target in the first half.
Georgia went close through a Guram Kashia header that Unai Simon, again preferred to David de Gea in the Spain goal, got down to keep out with a strong hand.
But Kvaratskhelia gave the hosts a shock lead two minutes before the break when controlling Otar Kiteishvili’s pass and firing a low shot across Simon into the far corner.
Luis Enrique made three substitutions within 10 minutes of the second half and the change of personnel paid off as Torres got in ahead of Lasha Dvali to tap in Jordi Alba’s cross.
Much like against Greece earlier in the week, Spain struggled to create too many more clear-cut opportunities against a side ranked 83 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
One of those earlier substitutions ultimately made the difference in the second of four added minutes, however, as Olmo fired in a shot from 25 yards that Loria could not keep out despite getting two hands to the ball.
Georgia’s frustrations then told with Shengelia seeing red for a poor studs-up challenge on Pedri in the final seconds.
What does it mean? Spain survive big scare
Spain were expected to cruise through qualifying and reach the World Cup finals for a 12th time running, yet their Group B campaign has been anything but routine thus far.
Luis Enrique made seven changes on the back of the draw with Greece to face a Georgia side without a win in six, seemingly thinking it would be a straightforward task in Tbilisi.
But that was far from the case as Georgia, who were backed by a gaggle of fans, restricted their opponents to just three shots on target and came within two minutes of pulling off a big upset.
Torres to the rescue
One of four players to retain his place in the side from the draw with Greece, Torres scored a vital goal to get Spain back on level terms before Olmo took the glory with his late winner.
The Manchester City attacker was responsible for his side’s only two shots on target before that somewhat fortunate Olmo goal and is fast becoming Luis Enrique’s key man.
Gil’s full debut cut short
Sevilla winger Bryan Gil has impressed on loan at Eibar this season and, having come on as a substitute against Greece, was handed his first senior start for Spain.
The occasion was not exactly one to remember for the 20-year-old, though, as he had just 41 touches of the ball before being replaced by match-winner Olmo at the interval.
Georgia round off their triple-header of March fixtures with a trip to Greece on Wednesday, the same day that Spain host Kosovo in Seville.