PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain, March 28 (Reuters) - A late Andres Iniesta strike gave Spain a 1-0 win over Iceland at rain-soaked Son Moix to boost their Euro 2008 qualifying hopes on Wednesday.
A dominant Spain looked as though they might be frustrated
after some superb saves from inspired Iceland goalkeeper Arni
Arason who stopped everything the home side could throw at him.
But just as Spain appeared to be running out of ideas,
Barcelona midfielder Iniesta finally broke the deadlock when he
fired home at the near post 11 minutes from time.
The victory lifted Spain, who beat Denmark 2-1 at the
Bernabeu on Saturday, into third place in Group F.
They are three points behind Sweden and four adrift of
leaders Northern Ireland, who beat the Swedes 2-1 on Wednesday
and have played a game more than their closest rivals.
"We went hard for the win especially in the second half but
it was difficult to break them down," Iniesta told Spanish
television. "But in the end we achieved our objective which was
to get six points from these two games."
The match was preceded by four hours of torrential rain and
both sides found it difficult to keep control of the ball as it
skidded off the sodden surface.
Spain began by probing for gaps in the crowded Iceland
defence, but as the deluge continued it became increasingly
difficult to play any fluent football.
Striker David Villa hit the top of the bar with a long-range
effort from wide on the right and his Valencia team mate David
Silva forced a sharp block from Arason with a fierce drive soon
Arason then produced a brilliant one-handed reflex save to
stop defender Olafur Bjarnason putting the ball into his own net
late in the first half and came to the rescue again before the
break with another sharp stop to deny Villa.
A defence-obsessed Iceland, who had lost their previous
three qualifiers, rarely ventured into the Spain half, their
only real chance in the first period coming when Bjarnason
lashed wide of the post after a corner.
Striker Fernando Torres, who replaced the injured Fernando
Morientes late in the first half, had two penalty appeals turned
down after the break when he went down in the area.
Spain kept plugging away but again came up against Arason
who produced top-drawer saves to stop shots from Miguel Angel
Angulo and Iniesta.
The keeper finally looked to have relented when he spilled a
shot from Villa and Silva poked the loose ball into the net, but
the midfielder's goal was disallowed for a foul on the keeper.
Two minutes later they finally got the breakthrough. Iniesta
darted into the area to meet a sharp through ball from Villa and
then blasted a fierce shot past Arason at the near post.