Ireland 0 Spain 4: Torres and La Furia Roja run amok to send Trap's men packing
20:51 GMT, 14 June 2012
Fernando Torres dumped the Republic of Ireland out of Euro 2012 as defending champions Spain eased into top gear.
The 28-year-old striker, left out of the starting line-up for the Group C opener against Italy, returned with a vengeance to spearhead an impressive display by the Spaniards.
Torres fired them ahead after just four minutes and then, after David Silva had mesmerised the Irish defence to make it 2-0 four minutes after the restart, helped himself to a second to complete a good night's work.
It proved a chastening experience for the Republic, who conceded a fourth late on when substitute Cesc Fabregas collected his second goal of the tournament, as their worst fears were realised.
On the charge: Fernando Torres outpaces Richard Dunne before slotting past Shay Given to make it 3-0
Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso (Javi Martinez 65), Silva, Torres (Fabregas 74), Iniesta (Santi Cazorla 79). Subs not used: Valdes, Albiol, Juanfran, Pedro, Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Jesus Navas, Reina.
Booked: Alonso, Javi Martinez.
Scorers: Torres 4, 70, Silva 49, Fabregas 83.
Rep of Ireland: Given, O'Shea, St. Ledger, Dunne, Ward, Duff (McClean 76), Andrews, Whelan (Green 80), McGeady, Cox (Walters 46), Keane. Subs not used: Westwood, Doyle, Kelly, McShane, Gibson, Hunt, O'Dea, Long, Forde.
Booked: Keane, Whelan, St Ledger.
Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal).
Spain will head into Monday night's
showdown with Croatia with top spot in the group at stake, while
Giovanni Trapattoni's men will have only pride to play for when they
face Italy, who need to win to progress, in Poznan.
Ireland had gone four games unbeaten
before they arrived in Poland, but have tasted comprehensive defeat in
both the fixtures they have played in their first trip to major finals
in a decade.
The sound of Europe's The Final
Countdown thundering from the stadium's PA system 15 minutes before
kick-off seemed prophetic at the time, and as Portuguese referee Pedro
Proenca brought an end to the opening 45 minutes, the Republic's hopes
of extending their stay in Poland and Ukraine were hanging by a thread.
They ran out knowing they needed to
avoid defeat to have any chance of reaching the last eight, and that an
unlikely win would give them a real chance with Italy and Croatia having
However, just as they had done against
the Croatians in Poznan on Sunday evening, Trapattoni's men found
themselves behind barely before they had broken sweat, and the source of
the damage was entirely predictable.
Power play: Fernando Torres got the ball rolling with a blistering opening goal
The return of El Nino: Fernando Torres smashes his shot beyond Shay Given
Taking the plaudits: Fernando Torres opened his account at Euro 2012 after four minutes
Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque had outraged his critics by lining up against the Italians without a recognised striker.
Trapattoni had predicted he would not
do the same tonight and would restore Torres to the starting line-up,
and the Chelsea frontman needed just four minutes to make his mark.
Silva's fleet-footed burst into the
penalty area prompted Richard Dunne to make a desperate and successful
sliding challenge, but the ball dropped nicely for Torres to round
full-back Stephen Ward and smash a right-foot shot from a tight angle
high past goalkeeper Shay Given and into the roof of the net.
It was the last thing Ireland needed,
although it came after Simon Cox, preferred to Kevin Doyle in a 4-5-1
formation, had tested Iker Casillas with a second-minute drive from
Outnumbered: David Silva runs the Ireland defence a merry dance
No stopping him: David Silva fires his shot past Stephen Ward, Sean St Ledger and Richard Dunne
They think it's all over: There was no way back for Ireland after David Silva made it 2-0
But Irish forays into enemy territory
were to prove a rare occurrence as Spain, not unsurprisingly, dominated
the middle of the field to lay siege to Given's goal.
The Aston Villa keeper was peppered
from distance as Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso and Xavi laid the
foundation for Silva, Andres Iniesta and Torres to go about their
Given, who had already got down well
to claim an effort from Silva, had to beat away a piledriver from
Iniesta and in a flurry as the half-time whistle approached, blocked
full-back Alvaro Arbeloa's skidding attempt with his legs and tipped
another stinging strike from Iniesta over his bar.
/06/14/article-2159492-139D1630000005DC-594_634x366.jpg” width=”634″ height=”366″ alt=”Clinical: Fernando Torres had a field day against the Irish” class=”blkBorder” />
Clinical: Fernando Torres had a field day against the Irish
Whether Trapattoni felt his decision
to use Cox had worked or not, he abandoned the experiment at the break
to send on the more physical Jon Walters.
But the game was effectively over
within four costly minutes as Spain once again flexed their muscles at
the start of the second half.
Given had already repelled another
effort from Arbeloa – he and fellow full-back Jordi Alba were
effectively playing as wingers – when the keeper's attempt to keep out
Iniesta's powerfully-struck shot dropped to the feet of Silva.
The Manchester City midfielder still
had plenty to do, but he tip-toed his way through the wreckage of the
Irish defence before slotting the ball calmly into the bottom corner.
4-0: Cesc Fabregas completes the scoring
Given produced a stunning one-handed
save to deny Xavi with 55 minutes gone, but would have been picking the
ball out of his net once again seven minutes later had Busquets managed
to bend his shot only marginally more.
But further damage was inflicted with
20 minutes remaining when Torres once again ran clear of a static
defence to fire expertly past Given and finally kill off hopes of a
Torres departed to rapturous applause
from his compatriots with 18 minutes remaining as Fabregas took his
place with Spain already looking towards Monday night.
There was an equally warm welcome for
James McClean when he was handed a second cap and a first competitive
appearance as 76th-minute substitute, but Ireland's woes increased seven
minutes from time when Fabregas blasted home a fourth as Trapattoni's
men slept at a corner.
Down and out: Stephen Ward, Shay Given and Richard Dunne reflect on defeat