Innsbruck (Austria), June 11: Spain fired a warning shot to their Euro 2008 title rivals with a stunning victory over Russia here on Tuesday, winning their Group D clash 4-1.
Valencia striker David Villa was the hat-trick hero but it was Spain's general incisive play that formed the base of this hugely impressive victory.Villa insisted that this proved there was unity in the Spanish camp, which has often been accused of being disjointed. "There's a lot of talk from outside about whether or not the squad is united," he said."I don't agree with all this talk."Villa revealed he dedicated his final goal to team-mate Fernando Torres, whom he credited in having a hand in his first two.
"I wanted to dedicate that third one to him because I owed him something for the first two."He made the first one and his run opened up the space for (Andres) Iniesta to make a pass." Russia, coached by Dutchman Guus Hiddink, did not play badly - they had a lot of the ball and created chances - but Spain were ruthless. H
Hiddink complained his team had been naive.
"If you just look at the result without seeing the game then you would think that Spain were superior and Russia didn't have any chances," he said.We were rather naive in many situations then we didn't have any luck with hitting the bar and post.
"The lesson is that we are playing well and created some chances but we were caught out on too much naivity and then got punished.
"We had a lesson in punishment on the counter attack caused by ourselves."
Russia created the first clear chance as captain Sergei Semak played in the overlapping right-back Alexsandr Anyukov and his pull back found Igor Semshov but the Dinamo Moscow man shot tamely wide.
Russia were made to pay on 20 minutes as Fernando Torres latched onto a long through ball from Joan Capdevila, turned his marker Denis Kolodin, drew goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and slipped the ball inside for Villa to slot into an empty net.
It was stunning vision from Capdevila who cut out a Russian pass and launched a 60-metre counter-attack in one movement but Kolodin should have stopped Torres having got a touch as he was turned, only to clumsily give the ball straight back to the Liverpool forward.
Russia reacted well as Konstantin Zyryanov hit the post with a shot from 12 yards following confusion in the Spanish box but the Iberians launched a rapid counter-attack with Torres dinking the ball wide with only Akinfeev to beat.
On 27 minutes a great move from Spain almost resulted in another goal as Andres Iniesta played in Villa, who forced Akinfeev into a smart near-post save. But on the stroke of half-time the same pair combined to give Spain a 2-0 lead, Iniesta brilliantly picking out Villa's run before the Valencia marksmen squeezed the ball between Akinfeev's legs. Russia should have been back in the match just after the break but Vladimir Bystrov directed his free header from a Semak cross straight into Iker Casillas's grateful grasp.
Spain coach Luis Aragones responded by bringing off Torres for Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas to try to close up the middle of the park.
Spain then proceeded to hit Russia on the counter-attack at will and had several chances to bury the game, including a Marcos Senna header from a corner that Akinfeev punched clear.
With 15 minutes left, Fabregas threaded a through ball to Villa and the diminutive striker turned inside his marker before wrong-footing Akinfeev.
Russia were restricted to taking long range pot shots, although Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Roman Pavlyuchenko both thrashed efforts just past the post.2
However, Pavlyuchenko did score a consolation goal with a close range header four minutes from time as Spain went to sleep at a corner but another rapier counter attack saw Fabregas head home after Xavi's volley was blocked.