Xavi inspires Spain to 3-1 win at Lithuania
Defending champion Spain stayed perfect in qualifying for the
2012 European Championship by winning 3-1 at Lithuania on Tuesday
in another dominant performance inspired by midfielder Xavi
Xavi scored in the 19th minute when his shot from outside the
area deflected over goalkeeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas at Dariaus ir
Despite having little of the play, Lithuania equalized through
Marius Stankevicius’ long-range shot in the 57th.
Xavi set Juanma Mata free down the wing before Lithuania
defender Tomas Razanauskas guided the substitute’s pass into his
own goal in the 70th minute.
Mata scored the third goal with seven minutes to play.
Spain leads Group I with 15 points with three games to play, six
points more than the Czech Republic, which beat Liechtenstein
Lithuania is fourth in the five-team group with four points, the
same as Scotland. Liechtenstein is last with zero.
”It was an important result today, especially with the state of
the field, which was woeful,” Xavi said after helping Spain to its
11th straight competitive win. ”We reached our objective, so we
can go forward happy … the team played a complete game.”
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque made five changes to the team
that beat the Czech Republic 2-1 on Friday, with Fernando Torres
and Andres Iniesta not used from the substitutes bench.
Athletic Bilbao trio Fernando Llorente, Javi Martinez and Andoni
Iraiola all started on a playing field that Xavi compared to a
”That in 2011 we’re playing on a field like this is sad,” said
the Barcelona playmaker, whose ninth goal came in his 101st
appearance. ”You can’t play football on a field like this.”
Spain’s quick-passing game was slowed by the conditions, but the
European and world champions were always in control.
Llorente laid the ball off in the 11th for Santi Cazorla, whose
weak shot was smothered by Karcemarskas.
Eight minutes later, Xavi’s shot hit Andrius Skerla and found
the net to put the hosts further on the backfoot.
Mindaugas Panka shot wide in the 23rd in the Lithuanian’s first
Llorente’s ability to hold the ball up helped create many of
Spain’s chances, with David Villa also dangerous from wide
positions. Karcemarskas denied Llorente’s shot in the 41st after
the Basque striker was played clear into the area by Cazorla’s
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas was tested just before the break,
stretching to stop Edgaras Cesnauskis’ long-range shot.
Karcemarskas again saved from Llorente after the restart, before
Stankevicius latched on to a bouncing ball well outside the area to
fire through a crowd and beyond Casillas.
But Spain quickly responded.
Karcemarskas stopped Xabi Alonso’s goal-bound free kick in the
65th before Razanauskas scored an own goal with Llorente poised to
shoot the ball into the net.
Mata, who had replaced Cazorla, slipped a low shot from the left
past Karcemarskas to score.
”We have a full squad and we have to use it and we used it well
in this game,” said Del Bosque, who also replaced Villa with David
Silva in the second half.
Defender Sergio Ramos came on in the 90th, the 24-year-old Real
Madrid fullback becoming the youngest Spain player to reach 75
”Our team did our best,” Stankevicius said. ”But Spain is a
team of entirely different class and our efforts were not enough to
Lithuania: Zydrunas Karcemarskas, Deividas Semberas, Tadas
Kijanskas, Marius Stankevicius, Saulius Mikoliunas (Tomas
Razanauskas, 71), Andrius Skerla, Edgaras Cesnauskis, Marius
Zaliukas, Mindaugas Panka, Tomas Danilevicius (Dominykas
Galkevicius, 85), Darvydas Sernas (Tadas Labukas, 74).
Spain: Iker Casillas, Raul Albiol, Gerard Pique (Sergio Ramos,
90), Andoni Iraola, Alvaro Arbeloa, Javi Martinez, Xavi Hernandez,
Xabi Alonso, Santi Cazorla (Juanma Mata, 67), David Villa (David
Silva, 54), Fernando Llorente.