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Spain overcome early scare to thrash Northern Ireland

Daniel Ballard's early goal had Northern Ireland dreaming of an upset but it turned into a sobering night in Mallorca as Spain ran out comfortable winners in their final Euro 2024 tune-up.

Ballard headed Michael O'Neill's team into a shock lead just 70 seconds in, but once Pedri had levelled from long range 10 minutes later, Spain piled on the punishment for a young Northern Ireland side.

O'Neill had preached the importance of shape and discipline in a game where Northern Ireland knew they would have little of the ball, but time and again Spain had too much time and space as Alvaro Morata and Fabian Ruiz scored either side of Pedri's second to make it 4-1 before half-time.

Substitute Mikel Oyarzabal added a fifth in a subdued second half as Spanish minds turned to their Euro 2024 opener against Croatia in a week's time, and Northern Ireland looked to Tuesday's friendly against Andorra to relieve their frustrations.

They had begun so brightly, instantly getting stuck in to the Spanish players as they showed the confidence from two wins and a draw in their last three.

Inside the opening minute, Conor Bradley dispossessed Robin Le Normand who resorted to a tug of the shirt. Debutant Caolan Boyd-Munce floated in the free-kick and Ballard leapt to nod it into the top corner.

Spain - particularly Le Normand - looked rattled, and the Real Sociedad defender was booked five minutes in for another foul on the lively Bradley. Moments later, Shea Charles' cross almost fell for Isaac Price but the angle was too tight.

It took Pedri to settle the Spanish ship. The Barcelona midfielder dropped into a pocket of space between the Northern Ireland lines and was too easily allowed to turn before beating Bailey Peacock-Farrell from 25 yards - the