Liverpool forward Fernando Torres scored a brace as world champions Spain began their European title defence with a convincing 4-0 win over Liechtenstein on Friday in their opening Group I qualifier for the Euro 2012 finals.
It was Spain’s first competitive match since lifting the World Cup in South Africa on July 11 and the Euro 2008 winners were far too strong for hapless Liechtenstein.
After failing to score at the World Cup finals, Torres rediscovered his goalscoring touch on 18 minutes with a beautiful chip to open the scoring as he continues to get back to his best after injury and his 26th international goal moves him fifth alongside Emilio Butragueno in Spain’s all-time scoring list.
“I feel better with each passing day following the injury and the goals tonight give me a lot of confidence,” said Torres.
“It’s always nice to be among the top-scorers list although the three points are more important.”
David Villa thundered in a shot from outside the box on 54 minutes to make it 2-0 and the Barcelona striker, top-scorer at the World Cup with five goals now has 43 goals in 66 internationals, just one goal from equalling the all-time national record of former Real Madrid star Raul Gonzalez who netted 44 in 102 games.
Villa, 28, hit the crossbar in the dying seconds of the game and was disappointed to miss out on the chance to equal the record.
“It was a shame (not to equal the record) because it was the last minute,” said Villa.
“However, I am sure it will come as I hope I have many more years left with the national team.”
Torres, 26, smashed in a second on 54 minutes and his replacement David Silva added a fourth after 62 minutes as Liechtenstein were put to the sword.
Spain national coach Vicente del Bosque started Torres despite a plea from Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson to give the striker a break to recover match sharpness after a knee injury that hindered him at the World Cup.
Torres started alongside Villa in attack as Del Bosque made just two changes to the team that began the World Cup final win over the Netherlands.
As expected, Spain started on the front foot and had two clear-cut chances in the opening minutes.
Andres Iniesta, scorer of the winning goal in the World Cup final, had a shot parried on two minutes and seconds later Villa had a header saved.
The breakthrough seemed imminent but it took until the 18th minute with Iniesta feeding Torres who showed great composure to lift a deft chip over the goalkeeper.
It was a sweet moment for Torres after an injury-interrupted World Cup and he almost netted again three minutes later only to be foiled by goalkeeper Peter Jehle.
It was one-way traffic and Villa struck on 26 minutes with his dipping shot from outside of the area giving Jehle no chance.
Torres and Villa both had other chances in a dominant first half with Liechtenstein mustering a long range effort that Iker Casillas held easily.
Liechtenstein, ranked 141 in the world rankings, set up for damage limitation in the second half but Torres made it 3-0 firing in a shot past Jehle at his near post on 54 minutes.
Three minutes later Torres was taken off – no doubt to the relief of Hodgson – as a precautionary measure with Manchester City’s Silva coming on in his place.
Silva had an immediate impact netting just five minutes after coming on as the Liechtenstein defence switched off completely.
Villa almost equalled Raul’s record on 67 minutes but was denied by the overworked Jehle and then agonisngly hit the crossbar in the final minute.
Spain’s next match is a friendly against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Tuesday with their next qualifier at home to Lithuania on October 8.
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