Spain, courtesy of David Villa, earned their first win of this year’s World Cup by beating Honduras two-nil.
A goal either side of half-time by the forward was easily enough to defeat a hardworking but deflated Honduras.
And Villa still had time to miss a penalty which would have completed a hat trick, but his performance throughout was enough to earn him the man of the match award.
The result means victory over Chile in the last group game will mean qualification into the knock-out round. Honduras, meanwhile, need to beat Switzerland and hope other results go for them.
Spain, still hurting from last week’s shock defeat by Switzerland, began well and dictated play with some neat and precise passing. And Fernando Torres should have given them the lead after only four minutes.
A low cross from Xavi was met by the Liverpool star, but he failed to make proper contact, and the ball wrestled safely into the arms of goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
Just two minutes later, David Villa’s strike from more than 25 yards beat the keeper but not the woodwork, as the Spanish showed their intentions early on.
Then after ten minutes, Sergio Ramos got under the ball, after a great cross from Xavi Alonso, when presented with a fantastic opportunity. The Real Madrid star was free, only a couple of yards out and, in what was a bad miss, somehow headed over the bar.
Iker Casillas, however, looked unsure when Honduras threw the ball into the box. The Real Madrid goalkeeper, who many have blamed for the goal conceded in the one-nil reverse against Switzerland, looked nervous as he cleared the ball unconvincingly from the danger zone.
But it was Spain who predictably took the lead after 17 minutes with a great solo effort from Barcelona’s new boy Villa. He shimmied past Walter Martinez and Osman Chavez before firing the ball past Valladares, who despite getting a slight touch with his fingertips, was never going to keep it out.
It was a deserved goal from a player who looked very sharp in the opening stages. It also calmed any nerves the European Champions had, and set them up for the rest of the match.
After some intense pressure and passing moves, it was almost two after 23 minutes. The ball finally ended up on the right hand side with Jesus Navas. He crossed it towards the free Xavi, but his lack of height meant the ball sailed over the top of him.
The game started to slow down – with Spain still well in control – but Torres probably should have scored twice inside one minute. Firstly, his back post header from Ramos’ cross should have been on target, and then he skied over an effort after, himself, opening up some much needed ground.
Spain never looked worried by their failure to score a second before the break, mainly because of their ability to keep hold of the ball. Honduras, in truth, were chasing shadows for much of the first-half and, just like with their clash against Chile, hardly managed to venture into the attacking third of the pitch.
Honduras did come out for the second half with a more positive attitude, but this just gave Spain more room to counter attack, and David Villa got his second of the match after 50 minutes.
The Spanish found themselves four on four in the final third; Villa picked the ball up from Navas, and his shot deflected of Chavez and into the net past Valladares.
Spain hadn’t really pushed through the gears at this point, and the second goal almost seemed effortless, but, still, it finished the match off as a contest
Because Honduras opened up and pushed more men forward, it meant the Spanish were able to enjoy far more space as they looked to rack up a few more goals.
And then on the hour mark, Navas was felled in the box by Emilio Izaguirre, giving the referee no option but to award a penalty. However, surprisingly, Villa squandered his chance of a hat trick by sending the ball wide from the spot, despite the goalkeeper going the other way.
Honduras, on the counter, created their best opportunity of the ninety minutes, but David Suazo couldn’t curl the ball enough for it to drop inside of Casillas’ right-hand post.
Cesc Fabregas, who came on for the brilliant Xavi, was sent clear but, despite rounding the Valladares, his effort was cleared on the goal line.
At this point – three quarters into the game – Spain, while in complete domination, should have scored a few more. Honduras were struggling, and the decision to open up for the second 45 minutes backfired.
Spain continued to press – with Honduras all but giving up – and, but for some heroic defending could have added more through Villa and Navas,
They may live to regret these opportunities, however, because top spot in the group will be decided by goal difference. Even still, Spain were impressive and they finally got their World Cup dream onto the right track.
Spain: Casillas, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila, Ramos (Arbeloa, 76), Xavi (Fabregas, 65), Alonso, Busquets, Jesus Navas, Villa, Torres (Mata, 70).
Honduras: Valladares, Chavez, Figueroa, Izaguirre, Mendoza, Wilson Palacios, Espinoza (Georgie Welcome, 45), Turcios (Nunez, 63), Guevara, Suazo (Jerry Palacios, 84), Martinez.