RIGA, June 2 (Reuters) - Spain improved their chances of
earning a place in Euro 2008 when they notched up their third
qualifying win in a row with a 2-0 Group F victory in Latvia on
The visitors dominated the opening 45 minutes but it took an
own goal from defender Arturs Zakresevskis on the stroke of
halftime to break the deadlock.
Latvia gave Spain several scares at the start of the second
half but midfielder Xavi put the result beyond doubt when he
beat Aleksandrs Kolinko with a deflected shot just after the
The win left Spain in third place in the group with 12
points from six games and they will expect to make that 15 when
they meet Liechtenstein in Vaduz next Wednesday.
Defeat for Latvia left them bottom of the group with three
'We were by far the better side, but the problem is that
these sides sit back and defend in numbers so they are often
hard to break down,' Spain coach Luis Aragones told reporters.
'It was really hard to score but when we finally did it was
easier to take control of the match.
'Latvia have some really fast strikers so it was important
to keep a close eye on them.'
Espanyol's debutant striker Luis Garcia almost had a dream
start when he got in front the Latvia defence but fired at
Spain proceeded to lay siege to the Latvia area for much of
the first half but grew increasingly frustrated as the home side
sat back and packed their defence.
They got the breakthrough, however, when Zakresevskis
bundled into his own net after he tried to block Villa from
reaching a Miguel Angel Angulo cross.
Latvia pushed hard for an equaliser at the start of the
second half, Zakresevskis almost atoning for his own goal when
he headed over the bar from a corner and striker Maris
Verpakovskis firing wide after a lightning break.
But Spain's nerves were settled when a shot from Xavi looped
over Kolinko after a neat lay-off from Roberto Soldado on the
edge of the area.