Villa wonder goal gives lively Spain victory against Italy

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Spain raised eyebrows across Europe on Wednesday with a late 1-0 friendly win over world champions Italy.

27 March 2008

ELCHE - Spain raised eyebrows across Europe on Wednesday with a late 1-0 friendly win over world champions Italy.

The only goal came just 11 minutes from time, just before midnight, but was well worth waiting for: a cracking left-foot volley from Valencia striker David Villa.

The prestigious win means that Spain have beaten the two finalists from the 2006 World Cup, Italy and France, within two months.

The victory will give Spain confidence ahead of the European Championship finals, though whether the Spaniards will manage to break their decades-old habit of flattering to deceive on the big stage is another question.

Veteran Spain manager Luis Aragones played down the importance of the win when interviewed straight afterwards.

"They also deserved to score," he said, "it was a really even game."

Aragones insisted that "they are a very good team" and that "we still need to improve certain things."

His Italian counterpart agreed that it was a game between two good sides. "It was a well-played game. We had some good occasions and they also did. We did not deserve to lose. There is not much to say except to applaud such a great goal."

The match was played in front of a capacity 39,000 crowd in the small eastern town of Elche.

Italy made an aggressive start and bizarrely had a goal disallowed - possibly for offside - after just 12 minutes, when Luca Toni headed in a free-kick from Andrea Pirlo.

The Spaniards gradually took control from then on, with 56 percent of patient rather than penetrating possession.

True to tradition, Italy were content to sit back and soak up the Spanish pressure - though, as always, were dangerous on the break.

Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon needed to be on his toes to save twice from Cesc Fabregas just before half-time.

Italy launched a few dangerous counters at the beginning of the second half, with Mauro Camoranesi hitting the crossbar and Christian Panucci heading over.

But it was the hosts who were looking more ambitious towards the end - with Italy seemingly settling for a draw - and they were rewarded with Villa's wondergoal.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

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