Spain beat Albania in return to Barcelona after 18 years


Spain’s Ferran Torres, center, scores the first goal during an international friendly soccer match between Spain and Albania at the RCDE stadium in Barcelona, ​​Spain, Saturday, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)


Spain received a warm welcome on their return to Catalonia and responded by beating Albania 2-1 in their first Barcelona match in 18 years on Saturday.

Dani Olmo scored a 90th-minute winner to give La Roja victory in front of over 35,000 fans at Espanyol’s RCDE Stadium.

Spain’s first of two friendlies in the international break prompted coach Luis Enrique to experiment with his side ahead of the World Cup in Qatar this year. Spain will then host Iceland in La Coruña on Tuesday.

A huge banner with “Barcelona” written on Spain’s red and yellow flag was unveiled on the stands ahead of Saturday’s friendly match, and the crowd repeatedly chanted “Viva España”.

“I can’t remember a game in which I played or coached where the fans were so decisive,” said Luis Enrique. “We can’t wait another 18 years to play here again.”

Spain’s last game in Barcelona in 2004 was a victory against Peru in a friendly match at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium. Any chance of playing there earlier than Saturday was delayed in 2017 when Catalan secessionists failed to pull off a successful breakaway attempt from Spain, triggering a deep political crisis in the Iberian country. Spain’s record in the Catalan city is 10 wins, five draws and three defeats.

Torres, who plays for Barcelona, ​​opened the scoring from inside the box in the 75th minute.

Albania equalized when a clearance attempt by Spanish defender Pau Torres ricocheted off Myrto Uzuni’s header and crossed the line past goalkeeper David Raya, who was making his national debut.

Olmo’s winner came on with a nice curling strike into the top corner after an assist from Jordi Alba.

The buildup began with Pedri González, who was back in the national team for the first time since last year’s European Championship semi-finals, when Spain lost to eventual champions Italy.

It was Spain’s eighth victory in as many matches against Albania.

Spain were without striker Raúl de Tomás with a shoulder injury in training.


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