Two late goals and an own goal played a key part in Monday’s three matches of the UEFA EURO 2016.
In Toulouse, defender Gerard Pique scored a late goal to give the dominant Spain a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic in its first match in Group D.
The twice-defending champion had a ball possession up to 68 percent, creating 14 corners and firing 17 attempts, but it just failed to turn those numerous chances into goals.
With the match more and more likely ending as a goalless draw, second half substitution Pedro Rodriguez and Andres Iniesta combined on the right before the Barcelona midfielder sent a cross towards the back post.
Pique jumped the highest and earliest to head the cross past Petr Cech, who should have earned his country a point nearly single-handedly.
In Paris, the Republic of Ireland’s defender Ciaran Clark scored an own goal to help Sweden to draw 1-1 in Group E.
The Republic of Ireland was regarded as the weakest team in the Group of Death. The other two teams are Belgium and Italy.
Wes Hoolahan smacked home a half-volley from a dozen yards in the 48th minute to gift the Republic of Ireland an 1-0 lead.
However, Sweden leveled the score in the 71st minute when captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic clipped a ball across the goalmouth, which the Republic of Ireland’s defender Ciaran Clark stooped to head into his own net.
In Lyon, Italy beat world No. 2 Belgium 2-0.
Bologona midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini, 31, lifted Italy to 1-0 lead with a clinical finish in the 32nd minute when Leonardo Bonucci curled a brilliant long pass over the Belgium defense. Giaccherini took a touch with his left foot and curled past Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois.
As Belgians were throwing everything at pulling level in the rest of time, Southampton forward Graziano Pelle, 30, sealed the win for Italy with a bullet volley in the box in the 93rd minute when second half substitute Ciro Immobile drove off the left flank and found Lazio midfielder Antonio Candreva on the right. Candreva lifted a brilliant ball to the back post for Pelle to volley in.
Belgium’s Everton forward Romelu Lukaku, 23, who had scored in each of his last four international matches, squandered the best chance to equal the score.
In the 53rd minute, a pinpoint pass from Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne was just through to Lukaku. But the star striker was in space running to the right of goal and his shot lacked conviction and curled just wide.