Villa up and running but Torres off the pace
Spain 2 Honduras 0
Tuesday 22 June 2010
Spain looked more like European champions again last night in everything except finishing. In between knocking the ball around with much of their old finesse, they wasted countless opportunities to amass a formidable goal difference, which could yet be costly; surprisingly beaten by Switzerland in their opening game, they will almost certainly end up level with them on six points, assuming they beat Chile on Friday. But losing out on goal difference would almost certainly mean playing Brazil in the second round.
The other doubt prompted by the night's work concerned the form of Fernando Torres, who looked disappointed when asked to leave with 20 minutes of potential goalscoring left, after David Villa had initially shown him the way and then missed a penalty. Ambition to become the first team ever to win the trophy after starting with a defeat nevertheless remains. Honduras, with Tottenham's Winston Palacios vainly trying to stem the red tide, hope only to avoid three straight defeats in Group H.
Their coach, Reinaldo Rueda, admitted: "We faced a team far superior." His opposite number, Vicente del Bosque, understandably had reservations about the performance, saying: "Not a great match for us, we had many glorious opportunities and should have won by more. So I'm not entirely satisfied."
Villa demonstrated the quality that leading Premier League clubs have long admired when scoring in the 17th minute. Collecting Gerard Pique's long crossfield pass, he darted between two defenders, veered inside a third before hitting his shot at full stretch into the far corner of the net. Less impressive was his hand-off to Emilio Izaguirre's face off the ball that could have had serious repercussions.
With Villa staying wide on the left and Seville's Jesus Navas brought in on the right, the Honduran defence was also at full stretch throughout. Barcelona's Andres Iniesta was injured, but was hardly missed as everything went through his club-mate Xavi in midfield, while Sergio Busquets sat deepest and Xabi Alonso was allowed greater freedom to break forward.
Even before scoring, Villa had hit the crossbar from 25 yards. Only Torres was not firing, twice missing clear chances that he would surely have put away when properly sharp. Just after the half-hour, he headed Sergio Ramos's cross into the ground instead of the net and a minute later was played in only to take a heavy touch and shoot much too high.
Honduras did finally manage a shot, right from the kick-off in the second half, hoping to catch Iker Casillas's attention wandering as it allegedly was in the first game. Substitute Georgie Welcome tapped the ball to Wigan's Maynor Figueroa for an over-ambitious 50-yarder.
Pushing men forward in an equally optimistic attempt to secure their first point of the tournament, they unwisely left four against four in a Spanish break and were punished with a second goal. As if on a training exercise, Xavi swept the ball out to Navas, who returned it for Villa to drive in with the help of a slight deflection.
Villa then missed his hat-trick by rolling a penalty past the post after Izaguirre tripped Navas. Seeing Cesc Fabregas coming on for the first time was not what Honduras would have wanted. Within a minute he had timed his run through the centre perfectly and shot towards an empty net, only to see centre-half Osman Chavez recover and slide the ball away.
Profligate or not, it was all a considerable improvement on the performance against Switzerland that former coach Luis Aragones had called "ugly, sterile and boring".
Spain (4-4-2): Casillas; Ramos (Arbeloa, 76), Pique, Puyol, Capdevila; Navas, Alonso, Xavi (Fabregas, 65), Busquets; Torres (Mata, 69), Villa.
Honduras (4-4-1-1) Valladares; Mendoza, Chavez, Figueroa, Izaguirre; W Palacios; Guevara ,Martinez, Turcios (Nunez, 62), Espinoza (Welcome, h-t); Suazo (J Palacios, 83).
Referee: Y Nishimura (Japan)
Man of the match: Villa.
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