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Esther and Athenea feature in Spain’s 4-1 rout of Finland

Esther started the game, while Athenea and Marta came on with 11 minutes to play

Spain v Finland - UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 - Group B - Stadium MK
Esther González had a quiet game by her standards.
Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

Spain opened their UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 campaign with a comprehensive 4-1 win over Finland.

Finland, the lowest-ranked nation at the tournament, stunned La Roja with a goal in the first minute by Linda Sällström, who had a composed finish after Spain custodian Sandra Paños couldn’t make a strong enough parry to avoid the ball from going into the back of the net. Finnish defender Anna Westerlund teed Sällström up with a pin point ball from her own half, which caught the Spain defense napping. That was Sällström’s 51’st international goal.

Spain dominated possession throughout the game, ending with 70% possession and an xG of 3.83, per FootyStats. They also had 34 attempts throughout the game, and their relentlessness in the first half got them the equalizer.

Spain won a series of corners in a brief spell in the first half, and they finally broke the Finnish defence down when Mariona Caldentey’s corner found captain Irene Paredes’ head. Since then, it was just one-way traffic, even though Finland would find opportunities to get in behind the Spanish defenders. Aitana Bonmatí, Lucía Garcia, and Mariona Caldentey got the second, third, and fourth goals respectively to wrap up a comfortable victory.

How did the Real Madrid players fare?

Only one Real Madrid player started the game for Spain: Esther González. The #9 started as a striker in Spain’s hybrid 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation.

There was one particular sequence in the 15th minute that was reminiscent of the classic Real Madrid Esther. She received the ball in the final third, wrestled off the challenge from a few Finnish players, dropped deeper with the ball at her feet to make space, created passing triangles on the left, and then tried a shot, which was a weak connection. But it was a move that displayed all her strengths: receiving the ball with her back to the goal, shielding the ball, finding her way out of tight spaces, linking up with her teammates.

She had a few more chances in the game, with her curler from inside the box in the 58th minute being off-target, and then her header nudging just wide minutes before she got substituted in the 79th minute.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad performance from Esther, but there was nothing to write home about either. But that could probably be blamed on the front three of Mariona, Esther, and Lucía Garcia having absolutely no chemistry between them.

Athenea del Castillo came on for Aitana Bonmatí in the 79th minute, and had a bright cameo. In the 86th minute, she received the ball on the left flank and registered the shot on target, which goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela parried away for a corner. I would like to take a moment to appreciate Korpela, who kept the scoreline to just 4-1 with a great performance between the sticks.

In the 89th minute, Athenea received the ball on the left once again, and showed a great change of pace. The way she took on her marker was amazing. She couldn’t find the space to cross into the box, so she passed on to an oncoming player, whose cross found Marta Cardona. Korpela, once again, came to the rescue and prevented the ex-Blanca from getting on the scoresheet.

With such cameos off the bench, Athenea would give coach Jorge Vilda a big selection headache, regardless of the competition.

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