Monday 19 February 2018

Villa double helps glorious Spain restore natural order

Spain 2
Honduras 0

Ian Chadband in Johannesburg

GLORIOUS Spain restored a little natural order to a shock-laden World Cup as they buried the challenge of Honduras at Ellis Park in the sort of dazzling fashion that reminded everyone why they had been installed as pre-tournament favourites.

Following their sensational defeat by Switzerland in their opening game, Vicente del Bosque's men put matters right with a pass-and-move masterclass, which was adorned by the finishing of David Villa, who netted both goals but will be kicking himself today after missing a penalty that would have seen him become the 50th owner of a World Cup hat-trick ball.

Spain were at times sumptuous, knocking the ball around with a skill and vision beyond the imagination of practically any other side in the tournament. Their only concern will be that they were so masterful, they should have bagged as many as Portugal did against North Korea earlier in the day. Heaven help opponents when Fernando Torres shakes off the ring rust.

Their coach Del Bosque had received plenty of unwanted advice, including some from his Euro-winning predecessor Luis Aragones, in the build-up to the game, urging him to be far more more ambitious in his selection.

He acquiesced to agree. To a point. Torres, substitute in the last game, was introduced from the start, but Del Bosque decided against bringing in the creativity of Cesc Fabregas, preferring instead for the security blanket of his two midfield holders Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso.

Not that it made much difference to Spain's dramatic sweep. Within the first 15 minutes, they had cut through Honduras almost at will to create half a dozen chances, including a 25-yard dipper from Villa that beat Noel Valladares but hit the bar.

The only concern was that they might be bedevilled by the sort of bad luck they had suffered against Switzerland, especially when Sergio Ramos headed over when it looked easier to score.


Enter Villa. When he picked up the ball on the left flank in the 17th minute, there appeared nothing on, so he went alone, weaving inside the despairing challenges of two defenders before jinking past Osman Chavez and firing high into the corner of the net.

It was a magnificent goal, reminding everyone why Barcelona have paid £34m for him. You would say Torres, still not at his sharpest after his knee surgery, is worth every bit as much but, just after the half hour, he looked an ordinary player as he missed the simplest of headers from a pinpoint Ramos cross and then ballooned a shot wildly over.

On rare occasions Honduras, with Walter Martinez and restored striker David Suazo, offered the slightest threat on the break, but Spain's only danger seemed to be to themselves, with Villa lucky that Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura did not see him flick Emilio Izaguirre in the face.

When the Honduras defence parted at the start of the second half for Villa to thrash home his second, via a deflection, one feared Honduras might experience real humiliation.

Jesus Navas was brought down by Izaguirre, and it was no wonder Villa scolded himself as he side-footed the spot-kick just wide of the right-hand post.

By that time, though, it was already becoming little more than a glorified training exercise for Spain. Fabregas got a run-out to replace Xavi and within about 10 seconds had rounded the goalkeeper and had his shot scrambled off the line. Chances came and went but no matter; in this mood, Spain will be hanging around until the final. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Spain -- Casillas, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila, Ramos (Arbeloa 76), Xavi (Fabregas 65), Alonso, Busquets, Navas, Villa, Torres (Mata 70).

Honduras -- Valladares, Chavez, Figueroa, Izaguirre, Mendoza, W Palacios, Espinoza (Welcome 45), Turcios, (Nunez 63), Guevara, Suazo (J Palacios 84), Martinez.

Ref -- Y Nishimura (Japan).

Irish Independent

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