Spanish squeak past Turks to keep win record intact
European champions Spain made it five wins on a roll as they squeaked past Turkey 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying Group Five game on Saturday.sports Updated: Mar 29, 2009 07:57 IST
European champions Spain made it five wins on a roll as they squeaked past Turkey 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying Group Five game on Saturday.
After an hour of probing the "furia roja" finally broke the deadlock at the Bernabeu stadium with Gerard Pique bundling in from point-blank range.
Barcelona's Pique, only called into the national squad last month by coach Vicente del Bosque for a debut against England, was in the right place at the right time after fellow attacking defender Sergio Ramos deflected a Xavi freekick into his path.
The effort by the 22-year-old, a mainstay of the Spanish under-19 side which lifted the European Championship in 2006 and who thereafter spent a year at Manchester United, calmed Spanish nerves after the Turks had made arguably the brighter start.
The Euro 2008 semi-finalists were hoping to cement second place in the group after ted brightly and Spanish keeper Iker Casillas had to be alert to foil the marauding Nihat Kahveci in the opening moments at the Bernabeu before Tuncay Sanli sent a long-range punt off target.
David Villa, who missed the Euro 2008 denouement through injury as Spain ended a four-decade trophy drought by defeating Germany, came close ten minutes before the break but was unable to direct his header on target from a tantalising Marcos Senna cross.
Strike partner Fernando Torres, who missed Liverpool's recent Champions League win at the Bernabeu through injury, then sent a snap shot skidding off target as the hosts struggled to chase top gear against energetic opponents.
Spain were without the injured Andres Iniesta in midfield, with Valencia's Juan Mata deputising, as they faced the side Del Bosque regards as their toughest group opponent ahead of other rivals Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia and Armenia.
With the Bosnians winning 4-2 in Belgium, the Balkan nation now sits provisionally in second place with nine points to Turkey's eight following their first defeat as Spain disappear over the horizon with a maximum 15.
Belgium are theoretically still in contention with seven.
Although the Spaniards' renowned striking firepower largely went missing on Saturday. Pique's clincher was an added bonus for a defence which has now only conceded one goal in their last 11 matches.