Torres fizzles as Spain held 1-1 by Italy
Put simply, Fernando floundered.
Fernando Torres came into the European Championship hoping a late season surge with Chelsea would restore his confidence, but instead the Spain striker fluffed several opportunities Sunday in a 1-1 draw with Italy at the European Championship.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque opted to begin the Group C match with no strikers, starting Cesc Fabregas instead of Torres in front of midfielders Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and David Silva. Fabregas scored the equalizer three minutes after Antonio Di Natale gave Italy the lead in the 61st minute.
Torres, who scored the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final, missed two clear scoring opportunities after replacing Fabregas in the 74th.
Expected to lead Spain's attack with all-time leading scorer David Villa injured, Torres seemed to wilt rather than grow in the face of goal at the PGE Arena.
''I had some chances, Andres Iniesta had some chances, but we didn't score,'' said Torres, who picked up a yellow card. ''That's why they have one point and so do we ... I think this was a good match, we just needed to score more goals.''
Moments after coming on for Fabregas, Torres' poor touch saw a perfect through-ball from Jesus Navas get away with only Gianluigi Buffon in sight. The Italy goalkeeper anticipated well to reach the ball before Torres and clear the danger.
Torres was again played between defenders in the 85th and with Buffon again charging off his line, he correctly lobbed over the 'keeper but too hard. The ball seemed to float for some time before eventually settling in the roof netting.
''He participated in the play, he had two chances,'' Iniesta said. ''We're all here to assume responsibility for the result.''
Torres has endured a terrible run since injury nearly kept him from helping Spain win the 2010 World Cup. He didn't score in South Africa, and had just ended a one-year goal drought by scoring in a 4-1 friendly victory over South Korea in May.
Navas' introduction for Silva in the 64th was geared toward Torres as the speedy Sevilla winger troubled the Azzurri with his pace along the left, which provided ample space for the kinds of runs Torres usually converts from. The 28-year-old striker, who was making his 94th appearance for Spain, was coming off a Champions League and FA Cup winning season with Chelsea.
''When Torres came on, it was the perfect moment for him as the game had opened up and he had more space to exploit,'' Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. ''Fernando was the ideal player to take advantage.''
Fabregas, making his first appearance since injuring his hamstring on May 25 while playing for Barcelona in its Copa del Rey victory, assumed a role he sometimes plays for his club, often swapping positions with Silva. Silva delivered a perfect pass to Fabregas as he sliced through the area, blasting past Buffon for a goal that stirred memories of Villa.
''The first one to be surprised was me,'' Fabregas said of his start. ''I was happy to have the opportunity, happy to be able to play. It's been a month and half since I've played. To get the goal was nice.''
Torres remained optimistic about Spain's chances of becoming the first nation to win three straight major titles. The World Cup champions play Ireland on Thursday before closing against Croatia.
''We wanted to win, we expected to win, but the draw is the best result we could get,'' Torres said. ''Maybe it's not fair, but they had their chances, we had our chances and 1-1 is a good result. We have to look forward to the next matches.''
Paul Logothetis can be reached at: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP