Stars conspicuously absent from int’l friendlies

Sports Desk, Nov 11 (efe-epa).- Most of the teams in action on Wednesday in a packed round of international friendlies were missing numerous starters as the highly compressed competition schedule is forcing coaches to worry about player burnout.

Spain coach Luis Enrique made wholesale changes to his squad for the contest against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, calling up Hector Bellerin, Iñigo Martinez, Koke Resurreccion, Marco Asensio and Alvaro Morata for the first time in months.

The match also saw Marcos Llorente and goalkeeper Unai Simon make their first appearances for La Roja.

The visitors took the lead in the 19th minute. Morata got the ball in midfield and got deep before delivering a great pass to Sergio Canales, who blew past defender Joel Veltman before beating Dutch keeper Marco Bizot with a sharply angled shot.

Frank de Boer, who took charge of the Netherlands squad after Ronald Koeman left for Barcelona in August, made four changes to start the second half and the payoff was not long in coming.

Two minutes after the re-start, Martinez and Sergio Reguilon failed to deal with a cross into the area from Owen Wijndal and the ball rolled to the feet of an unmarked Donny van de Beek, who beat Simon with a low blast.

Morata had a chance to reclaim the lead for Spain, but opted instead for a pass to Gerard Moreno that was broken up by the Dutch defense, while Bizot turned aside a strike from Bellerin.

Enrique made a triple-substitution with 15 minutes left, but the closest La Roja came to the go-ahead goal was a weak effort by Adama Traore that posed no problems for Bizot.

Memphis Depay forced an impressive save from Simon before Luuk de Jong botched a golden chance. Ryan Babel fired wide on two occasions in the closing minutes and the match ended 1-1.

In Leuven, Belgium edged Switzerland 2-1 to remain unbeaten on their home soil since September 2016.

Coach Roberto Martinez left his first-choice goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, and stars Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku off the roster for the contest with the Swiss.

A defensive miscue by Sebastiaan Bornauw set up an easy goal for Switzerland’s Admir Mehmedi in the 12th minute and the visitors went to the dressing room at half-time with a 1-0 advantage.

The equalizer for the hosts came in the 49th minute, as Youri Tielemans exploited a poor clearance by Loris Benito to get the ball to Michy Batshuayi and the former Chelsea and Valencia man put it past Swiss keeper Yvon Mongo.

Simon Mignolet denied Switzerland a second goal and Batshuayi completed a double with 20 minutes left to give Belgium the win in a match that served both squads as a tune-up for key UEFA Nations League contests.

Wednesday’s other action included Germany hosting the Czech Republic in Leipzig.

With Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos and the entire Bayern Munich contingent yet to even join the squad, German coach Joachim Löw had to improvise and took advantage of the opportunity to introduce two newcomers to Die Mannschaft, Philipp Max and Ridle Baku.

Both were impressive in their debut and Max had an assist on Luca Waldschmidt’s goal in the 13th minute, which turned out to be the match-winner.

Julian Brandt missed the mark on a chance to double the lead in the 32nd minute and Czech keeper Jiri Pavlenka made a pair of fine stops against Nadem Amiri in quick succession just before the break.

Germany’s Florian Neuhaus hit the post in the 77th minute and keeper Kevin Trapp did well to stop a thunderous header from Matej Vydra inside the final 10 minutes on the Czechs’ best opportunity of the night. EFE


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