Spain, having lost their first game against Switzerland, went into the Group G tie against Honduras looking to get their campaign back on track. The 3 points were a necessity if they were to take any further part in this World Cup and the stern faces of the Spanish players reflected the same as kick off loomed large. It was an indication that Spain meant business on a slightly chilly night at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.
As was expected, Vicente Del Bosque opted for his preferred 4-3-3 formation with Fernando Torres leading the line and David Silva making way for the talented Jesus Navas on the right. David Villa shifted to the left as Andres Iniesta was benched. The midfield remained the same with Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets marshaling the mid field with Xavi playing a more advanced role behind Torres.
Spain were the more positive and the apprehension that was there against the Swiss was a thing of the past. It took them just six minutes to show their intent when a lovely ball by David Villa found Fernando Torres in the box but the latter’s flick was blocked by the defender. Replays suggested a hand ball by Honduran defender Emilio Izaguirre but the Japanese referee waived play on. Spain went even closer in the very next minute when a long range effort from David Villa hit the cross bar with the keeper beaten all ends up.
Spain had another call for a penalty denied a couple of minutes later when Sergio Ramos was pushed to the ground while attempting to go for a Xavi free kick. It was a nervy opening for the Hondurans as Sergio Ramos was involved again when he headed over from close range with the keeper no where in sight.
Just after a quarter of an hours play, Honduras had a good chance to take the lead through David Suazo. The Honduran striker was through on goal but Iker Casillas was quick off his line to collect the ball and kill the move. Spain took a deserved lead after 17 minutes through David Villa in what is surely the best individual goal of the tournament so far. Villa collected the ball at the edge of the Honduran penalty area and weaved past three Honduran defenders before striking the ball into the top corner in a moment of pure brilliance.
With a goal under their belt, Spain looked a far more confident side in search of a second opening and Xavi almost doubled the lead in the 24th minute. Jesus Navas was left completely unmarked on the right and he sent a lovely ball into the box which was just out of reach of a waiting Xavi.
Spain were dominating the game and it was looking like it was going to be a long night for the Central Americans. Fernando Torres had a wonderful opportunity to make it 2-0 in the 34th minute, but he put his header wide of goal from a wonderful cross from Sergio Ramos. The Liverpool striker had another wonderful opportunity almost immediately as he intercepted a poor pass by Sergio Mendoza, cut in and, with only the keeper to beat, shot well over. The Spaniard was having a woeful game, and along with the usually brilliant Navas, was proving to be the worst Spanish player on the pitch.
Spain were unlucky once again when another tempting ball from Xavi found Torres with acres of space but the Spaniard was flagged offside. Replays suggested he was clearly onside and through on goal. It eventually equaled out when Spain were given a break in the 42nd minute, when the referee failed to see an elbow by Villa in the box and the Spaniard escaped what would have been a certain red.
Honduras did manage a corner in the dying minutes of the first half but it was wasted. The referee whistled an end to the first half with Honduras slightly lucky to be behind by just one goal in a half completely dominated by Spain.
The second half started off with a rather ambitious Honduran effort from the half way line. Honduras brought on forward Georgie Welcome in place of mid fielder Roger Espinoza in a move which indicated that they weren’t intimidated by their more illustrious opponents. The move though could not pay any dividend as Spain doubled their lead in the 51st minute with David Villa again getting on the score-sheet. In a wonderful move started by the brilliant Xavi, Jesus Navas was left with acres of space on the right and he cut the ball back for Villa. Villa took aim and his shot from the edge of the box took an unfortunate deflection of Osman Chavez and left the Honduran keeper stranded as the ball hit the back of the net.
With the wind behind their sails, the Spanish players looked in the mood for a few more with Sergio Ramos seeing his shot go just wide of the post. Jesus Navas was having a bad night and it became even worse when he shot straight at the keeper with options on either side.
With the pressure mounting, Emilio Izaguirre was beaten all ends up by the fleet footed Navas and brought down the diminutive winger inside the box. The referee signaled to the spot and Spain had an opportunity to put the game well beyond doubt but David Villa missed the ensuing penalty.
Cesc Fabregas replaced Xavi in the 67th minute and his first touch on the ball saw him round the keeper only to see his shot saved off the line by a Honduran defender. Honduras looked bereft of ideas as the Spanish mounted attack after attack in search of an illusive third goal.
The hard working Mata sent in a wonderful ball for Villa but the striker wasn’t able to reach it as Emilio Izaguirre managed to get a touch and send the ball out for a corner. David Villa had a wonderful opportunity in the 87th minute to grab his hattrick when a brilliant ball from Mata found him with just the keeper to beat but the Barcelona man took one touch too many and the chance was lost.
The dying moments of the game were much the same and the final whistle saw Spain register a convincing victory. La Furia Roja put in a truly world class performance but, with goal difference looking more and more likely to play an important role, they would be ruing the number of chances which they failed to convert.
The Hard Tackle’s Player of the Match:
David Villa (Spain)
After a disappointing performance against the Swiss, David Villa was determined to make amends and he made sure of that against the Hondurans. A classy performance saw him notching two goals, the first of which has to go down as one of the best this World Cup has seen. Individual brilliance and a tireless work ethic marked his effort against the Central Americans. He was involved in almost every Spanish attack and if Fernando Torres had his scoring boots on, he could have notched a couple of assists as well.
The Hard Tackle’s Referee Report Card:
Yuichi Nichimura (Japan)
The Japanese referee made some terrible decisions on the pitch as he failed to spot some key moments in the game. While his decision not to issue unnecessary yellow cards was admirable, some of the tackles certainly deserved harsher punishment. His inability to spot a clear hand ball by Emilio Izaguirre and the elbow by David Villa were just some of the key decisions that he got wrong in a rather poor performance.
SPAIN 2-0 HONDURAS
Venue: Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
Spain Line-Up: Iker Casillas, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Ramos (77′ Alvaro Arbeloa), Joan Capdevila, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi (65′ Cesc Fabregas), David Villa, Jesus Navas, Fernando Torres (70′ Juan Mata)
Manager: Vicente Del Bosque
Scorers: David Villa (17′,51′)
Honduras Line-Up: Noel Valladeres, Maynor Figueroa, Osman Chavez, Emilio Izaguirre, Sergio Mendoza, Amado Guevara, Wilson Palacios, Danilo Turcios (63′ Ramon Nunez), Roger Espinoza (45′ Georgie Welcome), Walter Martinez, Davis Suazo (84′ Jerry Palacios)
Manager: Reinaldo Rueda
Cautions: Danilo Turcios (8′), Emilio Izaguirre (38′)