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.
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.
On the other matches Sweden beat Greece 2-0.