GIJON, Spain (Reuters) – Finland’s Teemu Pukki scored 11 minutes from time to grab a 1-1 draw in Spain that complicated life for the world and European champions in World Cup qualifying Group I on Friday.
Pukki fired past Victor Valdes on a rare counter-attack after they had withstood waves of pressure from the hosts.
Sergio Ramos, winning his 100th cap for Spain, broke the deadlock with a header from a corner just after halftime but Vicente del Bosque’s side struggled to make their dominance count.
The draw leaves Spain under pressure to get a victory in Paris next Tuesday when they visit new group leaders France, who overcame Georgia 3-1 at home.
France have 10 points and Spain are second with eight having drawn 1-1 with the French at home in October.
"We weren’t thinking about France because this was the most important game," Ramos, who at 26 became the youngest Spaniard to rack up a century of international appearances, told Spanish television.
"Now we can think about it. We have a great team in front of us but we can beat them and we have to go with this mentality.
"This result is a shame after celebrating my 100th cap with a goal."
It was an unfamiliar Spain lineup without injured stalwarts Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol or rested midfielders Xavi and Xabi Alonso, but the script was unchanged as the hosts completely dominated possession.
The Finns defended with 10 men in their area at times, restricting Spain to shots from distance as the hosts struggled to pick their way through the massed white ranks.
Spain upped the tempo after the break when Real Madrid’s Ramos headed them in front.
The visitors looked like they might fold under the pressure but they stood firm and broke away to score an equaliser.
In the desperate closing minutes substitutes Alvaro Negredo and Juan Mata went close for Spain and Finland nearly grabbed a second on the counter-attack.
A breathless finale came after tempers almost boiled over following a goalmouth scramble.
(Writing by Mark Elkington in Madrid, editing by Mark Meadows)
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