Villa treble destroys Russia
10 Jun 2008 - 19:23:36
David Villa scored a superb hat-trick as Spain made the perfect start to Euro 2008 by beating Russia 4-1 in a very wet Innsbruck.
The Valencia forward looked lively throughout the 90 minutes, making the Russian defence work hard with his selfless running as he forged an excellent partnership with Fernando Torres.
Guus Hiddink's side were hampered by playmaker Andrei Arshavin's suspension, while striker Pavel Pogrebnyak had been ruled out of the entire competition through injury.
Spain are the big under-achievers of European football but, despite a sticky spell at the start of the second half, they produced a fine display that marked them down as possible winners of this summer's tournament.
However, Russia started brightly and, in the fourth minute, they almost took the lead when Yuri Zhirkov whipped in a dangerous free-kick that no-one could quite latch on to.
Spain slowly began to settle in an opening that was dominated by a succession of free-kicks that disrupted the flow of the game and, in the ninth minute, Torres mis-hit an effort narrowly wide before Villa latched on to Sergio Ramos' throughball only to fire disappointingly over the bar.
However, Luis Aragones' side deserved to take the lead in the 20th minute. Torres chased a long pass forward, brushed his way past Denis Kolodin and pulled the ball back for Villa to sidefoot home.
Russia almost equalised straightaway when Spain failed to cut out Dmitry Sychev's cross, allowing Konstantin Zyrianov to fire a shot against the post.
Back came Spain as the match opened up and Torres and Andres Iniesta created another chance for Villa, who forced Igor Akinfeev to make a smart save.
The Spaniards doubled their advantage just before half-time when Joan Capdevila led a swift counter-attack that eventually saw Iniesta slide a pass through to the predatory Villa who whipped in a low shot.
However, Spain sat back at the start of the second half as they allowed Russia to surge forward and substitute Vladimir Bystrov headed straight at Iker Casillas from virtually on the penalty spot when he should have scored.
Spain weathered the storm though and added a third goal with 15 minutes remaining. Cesc Fabregas picked out Villa in space and the striker twisted and turned before beating Akinfeev at his near post to complete a stylish treble.
Hiddink's side did grab a late consolation goal when Roman Pavlyuchenko headed past Casillas from inside the six-yard box, but there was still time for Fabregas to guide a diving header into the net after Akinfeev had parried Xavi's shot.