Torres scores 2 as Spain eliminates Ireland

Fernando Torres scored a goal in each half Thursday to give

Spain a 4-0 win over Ireland and eliminate the Irish from the

European Championship.

David Silva and substitute Cesc Fabregas also scored second-half

goals as the defending champions improved to four points in Group

C, the same as co-leader Croatia.

Spain dominated the tempo and scoring opportunities through its

quick combinations, taking 26 shots and putting the team on course

for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Torres, who scored in the Euro 2008 final, put Spain ahead early

after dispossessing Richard Dunne inside the area and scurrying

past Stephen Ward before sending an angled shot over goalkeeper

Shay Given in the fourth minute.

”We wanted to win, to make a better impression than we did

against Italy,” said Torres, who became Spain’s third leading

scorer with 30 goals in 95 appearances. ”The performance of the

team was really good. It was great.” Torres started over Fabregas

as the World Cup champions fielded a traditional striker after the

attack was led by six midfielders against the Italians.

The goal was the start of Spain’s assault on the Irish, who had

started well with Simon Cox forcing Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas

into a tricky save in only the second minute.

”Unfortunately the goal for the second time after three minutes

throws your tactical plan out the window,” said Ireland coach

Giovanni Trapattoni, whose team also conceded early in a 3-1 loss

to Croatia.

But Spain’s combination passing got better, leaving Ireland in a

constant chase. Spain midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso

exploited every crack through the middle with pinpoint passes that

were either spoiled by poor finishing, blocked shots or saves.

”For the vast majority of time, we were chasing shadows,”

Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews said.

Silva was a continuous threat inside the area before finally

converting early in the second half. The Manchester City forward

gathered the ball inside the area in the 49th before showing some

patience by rolling a left-footed shot around two defenders and

through Dunne’s legs and out of the reach of Given.

Given still made clutch stops on shots from Andres Iniesta, Xavi

and Alonso, who pushed forward alongside fullbacks Alvaro Arbeloa

and Jordi Alba as Spain looked for goals.

”They are the best side I’ve ever played against and probably

the best side I will ever play against,” Ireland defender Sean St.

Ledger said.

While Ireland enjoyed a brief spell of chances in the second

half, with Casillas stretching to save a shot from Robbie Keane in

the 75th, it was Torres who showed his late season turn in form at

Chelsea would continue at Euro 2012. Torres ran on to Silva’s pass

and held off Dunne’s pressure to shoot around Given in the

70th.

”That why we put him on, to do what he did today, to score

goals,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. ”It was an exemplary

game for us in many senses. We played a very complete game.

Fabregas, who scored against Italy while playing in an unlikely

attacking role, received Silva’s corner at the near side and sent a

shot off the inside of the far post to complete the rout in the

83rd.

Ireland will play its final match against Italy, which has two

points and needs of a victory to advance to the quarterfinals.

Spain can advance with a draw against Croatia on Monday.

”To go out looking for a draw would be very dangerous,” Del

Bosque said.

Lineups:

Spain: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba,

Alvaro Arbeloa; Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Javi Martinez, 65),

Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta (Santi Cazorla, 80), David Silva;

Fernando Torres (Cesc Fabregas, 74).

Ireland: Shay Given; John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St.

Ledger, Stephen Ward; Damien Duff (James McClean, 76) Keith

Andrews, Glenn Whelan (Paul Green, 80), Aiden McGeady; Simon Cox

(Jon , Robbie Keane.

Paul Logothetis can be reached at:

www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP