MADRID, November 17 (Euro 2008 Qualifier) - Spain secured their berth in next year's Euro 2008 finals on Saturday with an impressive victory in their top-of-the-table clash with Sweden in Madrid.
Sweden went into the match a point clear of Spain at the top of Group F but,
with Northern Ireland beating Denmark, they now still need at least a draw from
Wednesday's clash with Latvia to also be certain of reaching the finals.
Spain made the early running at the Bernabeu but neither side had even had a
sniff of goal before the hosts took the lead through full-back Joan Capdevila in
the 15th minute.
That goal stemmed from a Xavi corner on the right which Cesc Fabregas got the
faintest of flick-ons to before Capdevila, standing unmarked six yards out,
added the finishing touch with a thunderous right-footed volley into the roof of
Spain came within inches of doubling their lead on the half-hour mark when
striker David Villa slammed a low free-kick against the post, with Sweden
goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson beaten. Spain did make it 2-0 just before the break
though when Andres Iniesta latched onto a Capdevila lay-back before smashing a
left-footed effort into the top-corner of the net.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic thought he had pulled a goal back for Sweden soon after,
but his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
Spain, who lost the corresponding fixture in Sweden 2-0, continued to dominate
after the break and Xavi and Fabregas both went close with efforts that were
just too high.
It was no surprise to see Luis Aragones' men net a third goal in the 65th
minute though, with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos the man to score on his
Capdevila again got on the end of a Xavi corner, and although his shot was
cleared off the line, Ramos was on hand to volley home the rebound.
Spain were now cruising and they had further chances to increase their lead in
the closing stages before celebrating the victory which books their spot in
Austria and Switzerland next year.