Spain knocks out Republic of Ireland from EURO 2012
Fernando Torres scored twice as Spain knocked Republic of Ireland out of Euro 2012 with a dominant display.
David Silva’s composed effort just after the restart doubled the advantage, Torres poked in a third after a quick break and substitute Cesc Fabregas drove in a fourth.
The victory was enough to move Spain above Croatia, who they face on Monday, at the top of Group C.
The Republic’s previous successes in major competitions had been based on organisation and discipline.
But their performance in their first major tournament in a decade can be summed up by the fact that, including their 3-1 defeat to Croatia, they have conceded a goal inside four minutes at the start of each half they have played.
Before their sobering loss to Croatia, the Irish had never conceded three goals in a major competition but they have now done so twice in five days on the way to losing consecutive matches in a major tournament for the first time.
For Spain, who drew their opening game 1-1 with Italy, this was a ruthless reminder of their ambition to become the first team to win three consecutive major tournaments, 24 hours after Germany drew the focus with a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque was also boosted by the performance of Torres, who replaced Fabregas in the starting line-up and scored his first competitive international goals since September 2010.
For all the pre-match rhetoric, and a history of battling performances by the Republic, the concession of a yet another early goal left Giovanni Trapattoni’s game-plan looking redundant.
Simon Cox, drafted in to replace Kevin Doyle up front only to be withdrawn for Jonathan Walters at the interval, forced an early save from Iker Casillas but the defending champions took just three minutes to move in front.
Richard Dunne did well to block Silva after Andres Iniesta had guided in an intelligent pass, but Torres drifted around Stephen Ward before thumping a shot over Shay Given.
From that point on, Spain were able to strangle the game, controlling possession deep inside the opposition half.
When the Irish did manage to win the ball back, wingers Damien Duff and Aidan McGeady were generally too deep to contribute in attack and Robbie Keane was invariably too isolated to be picked out.
Silva had a low shot held by Given and Torres prodded wide at the near post before Keith Andrews had a shot deflected wide and Dunne missed with a header at the other end.
Iniesta had a powerful effort pushed away by Given, Silva headed over and Gerard Pique failed to make the most of a free header from Silva’s corner.
When Cox finally picked out Keane in a dangerous area, the Irish captain’s effort was easily blocked by Pique.
The pattern was never likely to change and after Given palmed away an Iniesta shot three minutes after half-time, Silva calmly waited for the room to guide a shot into the bottom corner.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Silva clipped a ball in behind the defence for Torres and the Chelsea striker prodded past Given.
And there was still time for substitute Fabregas, who had come on for Torres, to drive in a powerful cross-shot to add a fourth and further underline Spanish superiority.