Spain will take a narrow advantage over Croatia into Tuesday's UEFA European Under 21 Championship play-off decider after goals from Adrián and Mikel San José edged out Dejan Školnik's first-half leveller.
Luis Milla's charges were deprived of injured trio Javi Martínez, Ander Herrera and Diego Capel for the encounter in Burgos, but La Roja made light of those absences by taking a 21st-minute lead through Adrián. The visitors equalised almost immediately, yet conceded again when San José restored Spain's lead three minutes before the break.
Thiago Alcántara was the architect of the home side's opener as his sublime through pass was given a cool finish by Adrián. That strike was cancelled out a minute later, however, when David de Gea pushed a Nikola Kalinić shot straight into the path of Školnik, allowing him to slot the ball into an empty net.
San José volleyed just wide from a Bojan Krkić corner as Spain went looking for a second goal, and they steadily built pressure on their opponents. Their dominance finally paid off as half-time approached, with San José given too much time and space to head in Daniel Parejo's corner.
The hosts continued to see more of the ball after the restart, yet they needed to remain wary of dangerous frontman Kalinić, and it took an intervention from substitute Victor Ruiz to break up a threatening move as Dražen Ladić's men looked ready to forge a way through. At the other end, Juan Mata burst through and perhaps ought to have offered his side a healthier first-leg advantage, only to hook wide and leave the contest in the balance ahead of Tuesday's return encounter in Varazdin.