Johannesburg(E): Villa scored a late goal in the 83rd minute to win a hard fought against the resilient Paraguayans in the quarter-finals at Johannesburg"s Ellis Park. A highly dramatic game as both teams had missed a penalty each until Villa got his goal finally to settle the score. Villa scored his fifth goal of the tournament in the process and is one of the strong contenders to win the golden boot award.
Paraguay started off brightly as Iker Cassilas was tested with a shot by Jonathan Santana in the first minute of the match but his effort was held by Spanish captain, goalkeeper. The Paraguayans looked pumped-up and looked very positive fighting for possession and not letting the Spanish side settle in.
Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino had made six changes to the team which squeezed past Japan on penalties. Out of form Roque Santana Cruz along with Lucas Barrios were all made to sit on the bench.
In-form Villa who rarely found space on the left flank in the early stages,was however managing to find some holes in the left flank slowly as the game progressed, but was unable to find the final touch.
Xavi came up with the best effort of the first half hour in the 29th minute as he caught the goal keeper off his line, made a quick-turn and hit a volley but his effort was just over the bar.
Valdez for Paraguay was making those dangerous run with his pace and managing to keep the Spanish defense, Ramos and Puyol on their toes every once in a while.
Villa, Xavi, Iniesta were combining well with those delightful one touches but they were unable to break the deadlock and test the Paraguay keeper, Villar.
In the 35thm minute Paraguay again threatened as they marched forward, with the forward line, Santana, Valdez, combining well, but the cross delivered in the end was just a shave above Santana's head.
Torres who has been lacking in form, was trying to get his form, he hardly looked like scoring a goal and was eventually replaced in the second half.
Valdez in the 41st minute caused major scare for la furia Roja as he managed to find the back of the net, but his goal was called an offside by the referee.
Towards the end of the first 45 minutes, Valdez once again tested Puyol with his run and managed to find space to hit a shot on goal but his effort was wide off the mark.
As the second half resumed, Spain were once again kept tight by the Paraguayan defense as the Spanish struggled to find rhythm in their game.
In the 58th minute, Paraguay got a penalty as Pique pulled down Cardozo in the penalty box. Oscar Cardozo, who himself stepped onto take the penalty had a golden opportunity to put Paraguay ahead but his shot was brilliantly denied by Iker Casillas.
Then just a few minutes later the tables were turned as Villa won the penalty for Spain. Villa was taken down by Alcarez and the latter was yellow-carded for the offense. Xavi Alonso stepped on to take the penalty and converted it but the penalty was disallowed as Spanish players had jumped the referees whistle and had encroached the Paraguay penalty area.
There was high drama on the pitch as Alonso stepped up to take his second shot, but this time his shot was brilliantly denied by Villar.
Spain finally got the opening breakthrough after Iniesta who made a sparkling run, cut the ball to Pedro, who hit his shot but was denied by the post and Villa converted from the rebound off the post.
Roque Santa Cruz came close in the 89th minute, but his effort was again brilliant denied by Casillas. Just few seconds later, Spain came up with a quick counter-attack as Pedro made a strong run in the right flank put the ball inside for Villa. Villa however looking for his second goal was brilliantly denied by Villar.
Spain eventually managed to hold on with their 1-0 lead and in the process qualified for the last four for the first time after 60 years. They will face Germany in the semi-finals who had earlier thrashed Argentina 4-0, to book their place in the last four.