Forward Fernando Torres scored two goals as Spain had little trouble disposing of Ireland 4-0 Thursday at the European championship in Gdansk, Poland.
There was little doubt that Spain, the defending World Cup and European champions, would win their match against an overwhelmed Ireland side.
The only question heading into this Group C game remained how many goals Spain would pile up.
The score read 4-0. The victory felt much larger.
On the UEFA website, the official stat track had Spain maintaining 66 per cent of the ball possession. To observers it seemed Ireland never got out of its own end.
The Spaniards toyed with Ireland, attacking at will without fear of repercussion at the defensive end.
Their main henchman was Torres.
With steady rain falling on Arena Gdansk, Torres eliminated any suspense in the fourth minute. He pushed a loose ball past defender Stephen Ward, and then made no mistake with his shot over goalkeeper Shay Given.
The match showed a completely different Torres, who as a substitute against Italy in the first game had looked devoid of confidence when he was denied on two glorious scoring chances in the second half.
Torres has struggled with injuries and poor play during the last two years, but he was anything but shaky against Ireland, displaying the same skill that made him one of the best players in the world.
After midfielder David Silva put Spain up by two goals in the 49th minute, Torres earned his second goal of the game 21 minutes later, breaking in alone and beating Given with a shot to the short side.
Torres has now scored 30 international goals in 95 appearances, becoming Spain's third all-time leading scorer.
leading scorer with 30 goals in 95 appearances. Midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who started against Italy and scored, added a cosmetic goal in the 83rd minute after replacing Torres.
Already being disregarded after his troubles against Italy, a more assertive Torres gives Spain another lethal offensive weapon — a scary thought to the rest of the competition.
With the Netherlands teetering on early extinction, the Spaniards are looking more like the team ready to challenge for an unprecedented third straight major international title.
Although Germany could have something to say about that before it's over.
What this result means
- While Spain and Croatia both have four points in Group C, Spain leads the way because of goal differential. The two countries will battle it out in the final match of the group stage, with the winner advancing.
The winning goal
- In one swift move, Torres put the Spaniards ahead for good. He bounced on a loose ball and scored the only goal Spain would need against Ireland.
Man of the match
- Torres showed more poise than at any point in the Italy match. His two goals should provide a boost in confidence for a rejuvenated goal scorer as the tournament progresses.
The Spanish perspective
- "We wanted to win, to make a better impression than we did against Italy. The performance of the team was really good. It was great." — Forward Fernando Torres
The Irish perspective
- "For the vast majority of time, we were chasing shadows." — Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews