Two goals from Chelsea striker Fernando Torres helped Spain overcome the Republic of Ireland, in a game that they dominated from start to finish.
The much maligned front-man took just four minutes to find the back of the net, after pouncing on Richard Dunne’s lack of pace and smashing past Shay Given.
David Silva ended any unlikely Ireland comeback with a cool finish just after half-time, before turning provider and playing the former Liverpool forward in for his second and Spain’s third.
Goal hero Torres made way with 15 minutes left and his replacement Cesc Fabregas had time to round off the victory when he thundered home from close range.
The pre-tournament favourites came into the game with all the talk of whether coach Vicente Del Bosque would again field a team without a recognised forward – a tactic that secured them a draw in their first match with Italy.
Torres was chosen to start for La Roja, and he didn’t take long to reward his manager’s faith in him, scoring after just four minutes.
Manchester City’s maestro midfielder Silva found himself put through by an Andres Iniesta pass, before being blocked by Richard Dunne. Torres, however, reacted quickest to the loose ball, skipping past a challenge before blasting the ball into Given’s goal at his near post.
Spain couldn’t add to their one goal advantage in the first-half, occasionally overplaying passes on the edge of the penalty area, but never looked in any danger of conceding with Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique solid at the back, allowing Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arberloa to raid forward.
It took only four minutes of the second half for La Roja to double their lead.
Silva found himself with the ball in the penalty box, dropped his shoulder to put Sean St Ledger on the floor, before coolly placing it through two pairs of Irish legs and into the goal.
Ireland were never really able to keep hold of the ball, and when Silva robbed Aiden McGeady of possession in midfield, he was able to release Torres who made no mistake in stroking it past Given.
There would be no hat-trick for Spain’s number nine, as he was taken off to a standing ovation and replaced by Fabregas with ten minutes left to play.
Ireland’s poor defending would be punished once more before the end of the game, as the former Arsenal captain waltzed unopposed into the six-yard area, and blasted his second of the competition and completed the rout.
Spain broke a tournament record making a staggering 859 successful passes in a game that they controlled with 78% of the possession.
The result puts Del Bosque’s side at the top of group C going into their final match with Croatia knowing that a win would see the reigning champions into the last eight and on the path to becoming the first team to secure back to back titles.
(Original post – http://sportsbyte.sunderland.ac.uk/?p=15302)