Holders Spain began their defence of the European Under-21 Championship with a dogged 1-0 win over Russia in Jerusalem.
Substitute Alvaro Morata headed in Thiago’s set-piece with nine minutes to play, eventually breaking down a well-disciplined Russian defence.
It took the Spanish playmakers a while to kick into action, but Thiago asked the first testing questions of Nikolai Zabolotni from a 30-yard free-kick.
Russia’s disciplined style – of course expected without Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandar Kokorin – denied Spain spaces in between their defensive lines to create chances.
They were restricted to long-range with Iker Muniain of Athletic Bilbao dragging two efforts aimlessly wide inside 10 minutes.
After being switched to his natural left-hand flank, Cristian Tello was presented with a typically dangerous one-on-one chance, but he couldn’t beat Zabolotni at his near-post.
At the other end, Russia had their first effort of the game – and were inches away from the lead.
Midfielder Pavel Yakovlev of Spartak Moscow sprang into action as a bouncing ball landed perfectly at his feet and his ambitious lob over David de Gea sneaked past the left-hand post.
But Spain kicked off the second-half on the ascendancy with Isco, who switched roles to the left-hand side, influential.
He worked some space and provided a perfectly-weighted cross for Rodrigo who could only head the ball wide.
Isco and Rodrigo combined to almost devastating effect seconds later – but the Spanish frontman failed to convert for a second time.
The introduction of Real Madrid striker Morata – his first appearance at U21 level – added another dimension to a more direct approach.
Morata passed up a fine headed opportunity on 68 minutes, but he got the vital touch to Thiago’s in-swinging, dangerous set-piece with nine minutes remaining.
As the game stretched in the closing stages, Morata was just yards away from finding a second goal, clipping the edge of the post.
The experienced Spanish side rarely budged to the sturdy Russians and made it four wins from four against their opponents in European Under-21 Championships.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Asier Illarramendi (Spain) – The midfielder has set the tone for this Spanish team, as the holding midfielder. His commanding of space and ability to pick out a pass allowed others to thrive in advanced areas. A fine performance.
SPAIN: De Gea 6, Montoya 7, Bartra 6, Inigo Martínez 6, Alberto Moreno 7, Illarramendi 9, Thiago 8, Isco 8, Muniain 6, Tello 7, Rodrigo 7. Subs: Morata 7, Canales 6, Koke 5
RUSSIA: Zabolotni 8, Tsallagov 8, Shchennikov 7, Chicherin 7, Burlak 7, Petrov 7, Shatov 7, Yakoklev 6, Belyaev 6, Cheryshev 6, Bibilov 6. Subs: Grigoryev 6, Kanunnikov 6, Kirillov 5