Alvaro Morata and Oihan Sancet scored second-half goals as Spain ensured there would be no Scottish party with a 2-0 victory in their Euro 2024 Group A encounter on Thursday, leaving a frustrated Scotland waiting to book a finals place.
Scotland leads the group with 15 points from its six games, having endured defeat for the first time in the campaign, while Spain has 12 points from five matches and Norway 10 from six.
Scotland will qualify if Norway fails to win at home to Spain on Sunday.
The victory extends Spain’s winning run in home Euro qualifiers to 25 matches dating back to 2003, but it was kept at bay for much of the night by some brave Scottish defence, though the loss after 44 minutes of captain Andy Robertson to injury was a blow for the visitors.
Scotland thought it had scored the opener midway through the second half when Scott McTominay netted from a freekick, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
“The big moments went against us,” midfielder John McGinn told Viaplay. “It’s a sore blow losing Robbo early, then thinking we’re ahead, we regroup and then they score.
“You need to be very careful what you say. I think everyone watching that game from a Scotland point of view, wherever you were, it just felt like we weren’t getting any 50/50 decisions.”
Ferran Torres found himself one-on-one with visiting goalkeeper Angus Gunn in the first minute but put his shot wide, and the host went closer when Mikel Merino’s shot from the edge of the box crashed into the post.
McTominay’s freekick from a tight angle squeezed in at the far post. However, a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check adjudged defender Jack Hendry to have been offside, before Spain finally made its possession count as Morata stooped to head home Jesus Navas’ inviting cross.
The points were safe when Aaron Hickey’s slip under no pressure allowed Sancet to score from a Joselu cross, though it did appear the last touch came off defender Ryan Porteous.
“It was tough today, in the end, we take the three points, and we’re very happy with that,” Morata told BBC.
“They (Scotland) defended good, and they are very dangerous in counter-attacks. When they have this spirit, they are a good team.”
Results from other matches
Norway cruised to victory in the other game in the group as Erling Haaland scored twice in a 4-0 win in Cyprus.
Turkey claimed a 1-0 victory over Croatia thanks to a goal in the half-hour by Baris Yilmaz as it tops Group D with 13 points from six games, three ahead of Croatia, which has played a game lesser.
Albania kept up its unexpected challenge for a first-ever Euros qualification with a 3-1 victory over 10-man Czech Republic.
A brace from Taulant Seferi helped it to victory that leaves it top of Group E on 13 points from six games, five ahead of the Czechs in third, who have a game in hand.
With fixtures to come against Moldova and the Faroe Islands, Albania stands on the brink of its greatest achievement in international football.
Sebastian Szymanski and Adam Buksa scored for Poland in a 2-0 win in the Faroes that keeps it second in the group.