Spain begin World Cup defence with hard fought win

September 12th, 2012 - 3:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Fernando Torres Madrid, Sep 12 (IANS) Reigning football World Cup champions Spain needed an 87th minute goal from striker Roberto Soldado to begin their title defence with a 1-0 win away to Georgia in Tbilisi.

Soldado had a simple finish Tuesday after good work from substitute Cesc Fabrigas to take all three points from a game that was controlled by Spain, reports Xinhua. But despite enjoying the control, Spain failed to create enough clear chances against determined opposition.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque introduced wholesale changes from the side that defeated Saudi Arabia Friday night with players such as David Silva, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta all coming into the side along with Soldado.

Valencia striker Soldado was a surprise inclusion ahead of Fernando Torres and David Villa, who perhaps lacks the fitness to play 90 minutes.

The pitch in Tbilisi was in excellent condition and Spain took full advantage of that as they very quickly gained control of the ball and began their habitual passing game.

The majority of the match was played in the Georgian half, but the home side were well drilled and willing to work hard to close down the World and European champions and deny them clear cut chances.

Nevertheless, Silva was unlucky not to open the score with a powerful shot from outside of the penalty area which hit the Georgian post as Spain began to increase their control, with Xavi and Soldado both having good chances, with Soldado seeing two chances saved by home keeper Giorgi Loria.

The second half began with the same tonic as Sergio Ramos hit a long range free kick straight into Loria’s arms, before Aleksandr Amisulashvili hit the post for Georgia after the home side’s best move of the game. The defender looked to curl the ball around Iker Casillas, who was well beaten by the shot. Del Bosque reacted by swapping Sergio Busquets with forward Pedro Rodriguez.

Loria had to leave the pitch with what looked like a serious knee injury with just over 20 minutes remaining. He had been his side’s best player and was replaced by Roin Kvaskhvadze, who was making his international debut.

Spain were camped on the edge of the Georgia penalty area, but they were still unable to create the clear chances they needed and Del Bosque threw Santi Cazorla and Cesc into the game, meaning seven Barcelona players were on the pitch for Spain.

Cesc may have been struggling for form this season with his club, but he set up Soldado for the vital goal four minutes from time, leaving his marker flatfooted before setting up the striker to side-foot home the only goal of the game.

Georgia created one more chance in the remaining minutes but the ball rebounded off Ramos and Spain celebrated their first three points of this World Cup campaign.

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