MURCIA, September 6 (World Cup Qualifying) - David Villa saved his own blushes
with a clinical second-half goal as European champions Spain began their World
Cup qualifying campaign with a narrow victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in
Villa made amends for a missed first-half penalty with a pinpoint finish just
before the hour mark as Spain picked up three points in Vicente del Bosque's
first competitive match in charge.
Spain, who are now unbeaten in 24 games, were full value for their win but did
not find it easy to breakdown a well-organised Bosnia-Herzegovina defence.
The Spanish controlled both possession and territory in the early stages but it
was actually underdogs Bosnia-Herzegovina who threatened first in the 17th
minute when Samir Muratovic got in behind the home defence.
However, Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas was quickly out to thwart the danger
before Admir Vladavic's resulting cross drifted harmlessly wide of the far
Hosts Spain, lacking injured forwards Fernando Torres and David Silva, had to
wait until the 26th minute to test visiting goalkeeper Kenan Hasagic, who even
then did not have to move far to collect Xavi's downward header.
Spain went much closer to the game's opening goal moments after that though
when Marcos Senna created space for himself 30 yards out before smashing in a
swerving, dipping thunderbolt which struck the top of Hasagic's crossbar before
The Iberian nation were unlucky on that occasion but they really should have
been ahead in the 35th minute when Diego Capel went to ground inside the box
under a challenge from Muratovic, earning the home side a penalty.
But the chance was wasted as Villa, taking only a couple of steps run-up,
dragged his spot-kick wide of Hasagic's right-hand post.
Spain stepped up through the gears in the second half following a low-key
display in the opening 45 minutes, and Iniesta almost found the breakthrough
soon after the restart when he evaded Edin Dzeko before forcing Hasagic to block
Del Bosque's troops did not have to wait much longer to take the lead though,
with Villa netting a tricky chance in the 58th minute.
The Valencia man looked to have gone too far after latching on to Cesc
Fabregas' through ball and skipping past Hasagic, but from the tightest of
angles the Euro 2008 leading scorer managed to slot home.
That was Villa's 19th goal in his 37th international and proved to be the
match-winner, despite Spain continuing to push forward for a second.
Iniesta and Capel both fired efforts over the bar for the hosts before
substitute Santi Cazorla did well to reach a cross but could not get the power
or direction to beat Hasagic.
A second Spanish goal was looking increasingly likely though, and it should
have come in the 75th minute when Senna's long-range piledriver was pushed back
out into the danger zone by Hasagic.
The loose ball fell between Villa and Joan Capdevila but with the goal at their
mercy, the two players got in each others' way and the chance was lost.
At the other end, Spain had few scares in the second half and although they
were unable to add to their one-goal advantage, it was ultimately a fairly
comfortable victory for Del Bosque's men.