pain remained on course to complete a perfect record in qualifying as they
made it nine wins from nine with victory over Armenia in a rain-drenched Yerevan
In a clash between a Spanish side who had already secured their spot in next
year's World Cup finals and an Armenia team whose outside hopes of going to
South Africa had vanished long ago, it was the European champions who came out
on top thanks to Juan Mata's second-half penalty.
Mata coolly slotted home what would prove to be the winning goal from the spot
in the 64th minute, just six minutes after Armenia had stunned their visitors by
equalising through Robert Arzumanyan.
Spain had earlier taken the lead with a brilliant goal from Cesc Fabregas
midway through the first half.
The Spanish were clear favourites heading into the match having won all eight
of their qualifiers and facing a side who had taken just one point from their
opening seven matches in Group Five.
However, Vardan Minasyan's side had claimed a shock 2-1 victory over Belgium in
their previous match in Yerevan and they would have been eager to have added an
even bigger scalp today in the form of Euro 2008 winners Spain.
But it was not to be for the underdogs, as even though at times they made life
difficult for the Spanish, Vicente del Bosque's troops did enough to notch up
yet another victory.
In the absence of the injured David Villa, Del Bosque opted to use Fernando
Torres as his lone striker with the Liverpool man having recovered from the
groin problem that forced him to limp out of training earlier this week.
It was Villarreal playmaker Santi Cazorla who came closest early on though,
with an effort from inside the area that just cleared the crossbar, while his
fellow midfielder Xavi was denied by Roman Berezovsky in the 17th minute.
Cazorla came even closer in the 31st minute with another effort, but Spain were
not to be kept out for much longer as two minutes later Fabregas broke the
Xavi played his part with a fantastic pass over the defence and Arsenal captain
Fabregas ensured the opportunity was not to be wasted as he lofted a first-time
shot past Armenia goalkeeper Berezovsky and into the far corner of the net.
Up until that point decent chances had been at a premium, but Spain might have
been celebrating two goals in four minutes only for Berezovsky to produce a fine
save to tip Mata's effort around the post.
Spain had to settle for just the one-goal lead at the break though, and with
the scoreline unchanged Del Bosque opted to replace Torres with debutant Alvaro
Negredo in the 55th minute in a bid to change things around up front.
However, the move did not bring the desired result for Del Bosque as within
three minutes of the Sevilla striker's arrival Armenia had claimed a surprise
The hosts won a dangerous free-kick deep in Spain territory and they made they
most of the opportunity as Artavazd Karamyan's cross into the area was headed
past Jose Reina by Arzumanyan.
That sparked wild celebrations amongst the Armenia players and must have come
as a huge shock to the system to a Spain side who had only conceded two goals in
qualifying before today.
However, the Iberian nation quickly regrouped and found themselves back in
front not long after.
Mata won the penalty himself after picking up a fine through-ball from Fabregas
before being sent crashing by the outrushing Berezovsky and the Valencia
youngster picked himself up to clinically slot home the resulting spot-kick to
earn Spain the win.
Spain coach Del Bosque was impressed with Armernia's resistance but insisted that his side deserved to record their ninth win in qualifying.
"It was a difficult match and they did not allow us a lot of
space," Del Bosque said. "We were missing the final pass on many occasions but we
managed to create some good moments and secure an important
win," he added.
With David Villa injured, Del Bosque played Fernando Torres as a lone striker and the Liverpool forward made way for
Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo to make his first appearance for Spain 10 minutes after the break.
"I am really happy with the debut," Negredo, who was brought into the squad to replace Villa on Tuesday, told Spanish radio. "It was the happiest day of my life and I will never forget it."
Spain's final match in the group is against Bosnia in Zenica on Wednesday.