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Torres struggles but Villa brace opens Spain's account at FIFA World Cup

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fernando_torres.jpgA brace from new Barca signing David Villa enabled Spain to get their FIFA World Cup campaign back on track with a commanding win over Honduras at Ellis Park stadium. Pre-tournament favourites Spain bounced back from their shock opening game defeat against Switzerland with a comfortable 2-0 victory in which they created a host of chances, and even spurned a second half penalty after Villa missed a great chance at scoring a rare World Cup hat-trick. But Spain's soon to be record goal scorer could be forgiven for his miss after his sensational opener gave the Euro 2008 winners a deserved lead. He added a second with a deflected strike which killed the game but in all honesty Spain boss Vincente Del Bosque will be wondering how his side only won by two goals with returning striker Fernando Torres being the chief culprit after he missed a glut of chances in the first half. The win means Spain lie second behind group leaders Chile who have six points following their 1-0 victory against Switzerland earlier in the day. Honduras lie bottom of the group following their second successive loss and are all but eliminated from the competition.

Fernando Torres made his first start of the World Cup with Spain boss Vincente Del Bosque naming the awesome twosome up front with Seville winger Jesus Navas for company. The injured Andres Iniesta and David Silva dropped to the subs bench in a completely re-jigged frontline as the European Champions looked to get their campaign up and running. Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas once again had to do make do with a place on the bench as the Spain boss stuck with the midfield trio of Xavi, Alonso and Busquets.

Honduras meanwhile welcomed back star striker David Suazo from injury, with Tottenham's Wilson Palacios slotting in as the key man in central midfield. A lot was resting on the shoulders of Palacios who had enjoyed a fine season with the North London club. Boss Reinaldo Rueda was relying on the midfielder's bustling energy to disrupt and break up possession against the silky skills of their Iberian opponents.

The game started in a familiar way almost all games involving Spain do, with La Roja having plenty of possession and the opposition trying to win the ball back. It did not take long for the Europeans to fashion their first chance. Torres had a glorious opportunity to open his side's account but he failed to control a cross from the left and misfired away from danger. The early signs were that the Liverpool striker was still ring rusty from his lengthy time away following a knee operation. If that early Torres chance was not a wake call for the Honduran defence then Villa's fierce 30 yard strike which beat keeper Noel Valladares but struck the crossbar on 7 minutes was surely their final one. The Spanish were looking menacing with every attack, with Navas seeing plenty of the ball down the right flank. They could have had a penalty when defender Sergio Ramos looked to have been pushed in the box but the Japanese referee turned it down and waved away Spain's protests. La Bicolor did nearly create a chance of their own when striker Suazo looked to have been played in but keeper Iker Casillas was alert to the danger and just got there in time.

Straight right back the other end, Villa showed his class with a goal of stunning individual brilliance. The new Barcelona signing cut in from the left, shimmied past two players with some wonderful close control before finding the top corner for his 40th international goal. It was the very least Spain deserved for their opening burst and one sensed the goal calmed any nerves following that shock loss in their first game.

Xavi, Busquets and Alonso were controlling things in midfield with Ramos and Navas having a field day down the right flank with Honduran left back Emilio Izaguirre completely run ragged. They were creating chance after chance but Torres was again wasteful as he spurned at least three good opportunities to score. The worst was on 34 minutes when Torres intercepted a woeful pass from Mendoza and with just the keeper to beat and the goal gaping, he blazed his shot miles over the bar. Despite the finishing being poor the build up play was often spell binding and the Honduran players looked to be in a spin. But for all their artistry and dominance the score still stood at 1-0 and Del Bosque knew more than anyone that one goal is never enough, as the players walked off at half time.

And he only had to wait six minutes for Spain to put this game to bed as Villa scored his second from a fast counter attack which he himself had launched. During the move the ball found its way to Xavi who teed up his new club mate Villa, whose shot deflected off the shin of Osman Chavez and found its way into the net. La Bicolor were chasing shadows and Spain should have had a third when Navas was brought down in the box for an obvious penalty. But Villa spurned the chance of a hat-trick and side footed his 61st minute penalty wide.

Del Bosque rang the changes and brought off Xavi for Fabregas for the last 20 minutes and the Arsenal man nearly scored with his first touch after he beat the offside trap, rounded the keeper, but just didn't have enough pace on the shot as a defender hacked the ball to safety. A dejected looking Torres was replaced soon after by Juan Mata, but Torres aside, Spain had definitely got their mojo back with a performance full of vigour and class. The European side ran out the clock on auto pilot as keeper Iker Casillas was hardly called in to action.

The result leaves Group H intriguingly poised. If Spain beat Chile and Switzerland beat Honduras in the last set of Group games, two very distinct possibilities, the top three teams will all be tied on 6 points and goal difference is likely to determine the two teams that qualify. While Chile currently occupy pole position with not just 6 points, but also the best goal difference in the group, their two wins were achieved by a solitary goal margin and hence they can quite easily be displaced. Switzerland are yet to show the ability to score plenty of goals, but perhaps they will not need to if Spain inflict a significant enough defeat on Chile. The South Americans though will know that a point guarantees them a spot in the last 16 and also in all probability keeps them away from Brazil, sufficient incentive to shut shop when these four sides do battle on Friday, later this week. But for Spain perhaps what was most important today was the fact that they have finally arrived in South Africa!

The Teams:

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

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

Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (Japan)

Scoreline: Spain 2 Honduras 0 ( Villa 17, 51)

Check out the Points Table

Also Read:

Spain 0 - 1 Switzerland - Match Report

Chile 1 - 0 Switzerland - Match Report

File Photograph Copyright: STF Photo Agency

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