Spain were made to work hard but eventually ran out winners on a horrible playing surface in Kaunas....
Xavi's deflected shot broke the scoreless deadlock, before Marius Stankevicius levelled for the home side, but an own goal from Tadas Kijanskas and a strike from Juan Mata helped put Vicente del Bosque's side in a commanding position in Group I.
Spain expressed their concern over the questionable surface in Kaunas, and it was clear that a passing game would be extremely difficult on a potted surface that contained more sand than grass.
Del Bosque’s men refused to alter their approach however, and attempted to keep the ball in their imitable style. The first twenty minutes very much belonged to the world champions, and it was no surprise when they broke the resistance of the hosts.
Villa, looking lively after his double on Friday against the Czech Republic, combined with his Barcelona teammate Xavi, and as the midfielder struck towards goal, his effort looped off the body of Andrius Skerla and flew into the net. It was a fortunate lead, but one that La Furia Roja deserved.
To the credit of the Lithuanians, they attempted to hit Spain on the counter-attack, and achieved limited success, pushing Del Bosque’s much-changed team back into the own territory and forcing them to defend.
They were unable to create a clear opening despite their play, and indeed Fernando Llorente should have perhaps doubled the advantage before half-time, running onto a Santi Cazorla through pass, but the Athletic Bilbao striker’s attempt was blocked by Karcemarskas.
But the hosts struck a stunning leveller on 57 minutes, thanks to an unlikely source. Indecisive defending from Raul Albiol saw the ball loop into the area, and Marius Stankevicius, who plies his trade with La Liga side Valencia, launched an unstoppable low shot that flew past Iker Casillas and into the corner.
Spain knew that they were in a match now, as Lithuania continued to press. Del Bosque rang the changes, introducing David Silva and Juan Mata, and the latter was involved as Group I’s leaders retained their advantage.
Xavi’s through pass found Mata on the left, and his ball across the area looked for Llorente, but instead found the shin of the unfortunate Kijanskas, with his clearance flying into his own net. Again, the build-up has been smooth, but Spain had been fortunate that the attack had ended in them retaking the lead.
Labukas tested Casillas with a long-range effort in the closing moments, but the hosts had begun to tire, and the tournament holders were to seal the win thanks to the move of the match. Xavi and Silva combined to play in Mata, and he calmly rolled the ball into the net.
Five wins out of five for Spain, who have all but secured their qualification for next year’s tournament, but Lithuania can take heart from their impressive display, albeit under awful conditions.
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