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Double delight for Super Villa

sports Updated: Mar 27, 2011 02:12 IST

David Villa became Spain's leading goalscorer as the world champions came from behind to beat Czech Republic 2-1 and join three other heavyweights in taking charge of their Euro 2012 qualifying groups on Friday.

France, Italy and the Netherlands also extended their leads at the top with wins ranging from the laboured to the convincing but it was Spain's near hiccup that caused the biggest stir.

The European champions were trailing to a first-half Jaroslav Plasil goal before Villa scored twice in four minutes to reach 46 goals for his country, two more than Raul, and send Spain six points clear of the second-placed Czechs in Group I.

"Villa is a boy with a lot of poise in front of goal," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque told a news conference. "Twelve points from four matches is the ideal position but we have to keep it up."

Spain's blushes were spared while France and Italy went some way to soothing their bruised reputations with Les Bleus beating Luxembourg 2-0 and the Azzurri sneaking a 1-0 win in Slovenia.

The two teams who contested the 2006 World Cup final were not at their most convincing though and were given a lesson in how to stamp authority over weaker opposition by 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands who thrashed Hungary 4-0.

While a noisy Granada stadium cheered Spain's fightback, there were few witnesses to Serbia's resilience in a 2-1 comeback win over battling Northern Ireland in a match played behind closed doors in Belgrade.

After miserable World Cup showings last year, France and Italy have been seeking to make amends and standing on top of Groups D and C respectively the future is looking brighter.

France took their time to settle against a Luxembourg team ranked almost 100 places below them and despite dominating possession they had to wait until the 28th minute before defender Philippe Mexes headed home.

They sealed the points and a four-point lead in their group 18 minutes from time when Yoann Gourcuff volleyed in after a Franck Ribery cross was deflected by a Luxembourg defender. Much of the pre-match talk focussed on the return of World Cup rebels Ribery and Patrice Evra.