Football

Spain comes good to set up Portugal clash

Spain's Andres Iniesta celebrates with teammate David Villa, right after scoring the second goal against Chile.

Spain's Andres Iniesta celebrates with teammate David Villa, right after scoring the second goal against Chile.  

Spain beat Chile 2-1 at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on Friday to qualify for the round of 16. Chile also goes through because Switzerland failed to beat Honduras.

Spain took the lead on 24 minutes through David Villa and Andres Iniesta made it 2-0 on 37 minutes. Chile, who had Marco Estrada sent off in the first-half, pulled one back on 47 minutes.

Spain finishes with six points and top Group H on goal difference.

They will play Portugal on Tuesday in Cape Town.

Chile finishes second and play Brazil on Monday in Johannesburg.

Switzerland goes home with four points. Honduras finishes bottom with one point.

Spain recalled fit-again Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta in place of winger Jesus Navas. Chile left out striker Humberto Suazo leaving Mark Gonzalez, who got the winner in their last game against the Swiss, in attack.

The Spanish had the first chance on three mintues when a Xavi free-kick was headed over by Fernando Torres. The Liverpool man then raced on to a pass from Sergio Ramos but shot over.

It was Spain who needed to score but on 10 minutes Chile should have gone ahead when Jean Beausejour’s cross was put wide by Gonzalez from the edge of the six-yard box.

Despite the Torres chances it was a very nervous start by Spain summed by Iker Casillas punching a speculative effort from Alexis Sanchez out for a corner when he was under no pressure and could have caught.

Chile defender Waldo Ponce was then lucky to escape with just a yellow card for kicking out at Torres. Referee Marco Rodriguez decided a yellow sufficed, ruling him out of the next match.

Marco Estrada joined him in the book with a very late challenge on Sergio Busquets. With Gary Medel’s earlier booking that made it three cautions in six minutes, but it was Chile on top until they were undone by a moment of madness from their goalkeeper Claudio Bravo on 24 minutes.

Xabi Alonso’s long ball out of defence was chased down by Fernando Torres. Bravo came tearing out of his goal and got to the ball first but cleared straight to David Villa who found the empty net from distance with a superb finish.

That was Villa’s third goal of the tournament and his sixth in World Cups making him Spain’s top scorer in the competition. It served to settle Spanish nerves and on 37 minutes things really swung their way when they went 2-0 up and Chile were reduced to ten men.

Iniesta exchanged passes with Villa and fired past Bravo from the edge of the box, scoring this World Cup’s 100th goal.

In the same attack, Torres had gone down off the ball after contact from Estrada and although the trip looked accidental out came the second yellow for the Chile defender.

If it was unlucky, fortune favoured Chile just before the break when Ponce stamped on Xabi Alonso’s ankle as the two went for a loose ball in midfield. It would have been the defender’s second yellow had the referee seen it and Alonso had to be helped down the tunnel for treatment.

Rodrigo Millar was on for Gonzalez at the restart and he had the ball in the net within three minutes when his shot from the edge of the area took a deflection off of Gerard Pique and looped over Casillas to make it 2-1.

Despite the goal, Spain were beginning to make the extra man tell and when Cesc Fabregas replaced Fernando Torres on 55 minutes he immediately set up Villa who should have scored the third but kicked fresh air with only the keeper to beat.

In the end it did not matter as Spain held on for the win. Both teams celebrated on the final whistle as Switzerland’s goalless draw with Honduras meant Spain qualified top and Chile in second place.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 2:51:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/Spain-comes-good-to-set-up-Portugal-clash/article16267738.ece

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