Euro 2008 – Villa hat-trick vanquishes Russia
A hat-trick from David Villa inspired Spain to an impressive 4-1 victory over Russia in their opening Euro 2008 Group D game at the Tivoli Neu Stadium in Innsbruck.
Two neat finishes from Villa gave Spain a 2-0 half-time lead, after Russian midfielder Konstantin Zyrianov had seen a shot rebound off the woodwork midway through the first half.
Villa sealed his hat-trick 15 minutes from time, before Roman Pavlyuchenko netted a consolation goal for Russia five minutes before the end, thereby making this the first match in the competition in which both sides scored.
Spain capped the win in injury time when second-half substitute Cesc Fabregas dived in to head home after Xavi’s volley had been parried by Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
Spain coach Luis Aragones fielded an attacking formation that paired Fernando Torres and Villa up front, with Marcos Senna preferred to Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso in the holding role and Arsenal star Fabregas on the bench.
They created the better chances of an open first half, and after Villa had wasted two good opportunities and Russia’s Igor Semshov had flashed a shot wide after being set up by Aleksandr Anyukov’s right-wing pass, they took the lead when Torres got the better of Denis Kolodin on the Spain left before squaring for Villa to tuck the ball home.
Russia’s response was immediate, and they almost levelled when Zyrianov swept a low shot against the base of the left-hand post after a cross from the right had bissected the Spanish defence.
But Spain were soon back on the attack, pulling the Russian defence this way and that with their perceptive passing and movement, and Akinfeev was forced to produce smart saves to deny Torres and Villa.
Russia looked to get men forward on the break whenever possible, but a minute before half-time they were undone for a second time when Villa slotted home Andres Iniesta‘s superb through-ball after a slick counter-attack.
Guus Hiddink’s side started to threaten in the early stages of the second half, and after Aragones sent on Fabregas for Torres to tighten things up, Villa spurned a chance to make the game safe when he put a shot straight at Akinfeev from the edge of the box.
As Russia went forward looking for a goal they begin to leave spaces at the back. Anyukov had to produce a superb block to cut out a Sergio Ramos cross, before Senna saw a header saved by Akinfeev and David Silva‘s volleyed follow-up flew straight into the Russia keeper’s midriff.
They did not have to wait long for a third goal though, as with 15 minutes remaining Villa latched onto Fabregas’s pass, tricked his way past Roman Shirokov and tucked the ball inside the near post to clinch his hat-trick.
Pavlyuchenko headed home at the back post after Zyrianov’s corner had been flicked on by Shirokov, before Fabregas’s late effort set the seal on an eye-catching Spanish performance.