Villa Steals Winner To Save Spain's Brussels Blushes

A heated and tightly contested encounter was won late in the day by Spain thanks to David Villa, though the European Champions lost Fernando Torres to injury...

Belgium 1-2 Spain
The opening minutes of the game were deceptive, as the European champions came out full of confidence and passing flair, only to go a goal down after just seven minutes.

An innovative set-play saw a Belgium corner float over the area to the other side, where Manchester City new boy Vincent Kompany shifted his feet well to manage a yard of space before floating a ball  back into the area, stretching the Spanish defence and leaving Sergio Ramos without a clue as Wesley Sonck looped a header over Iker Casillas into the far corner.

Spain were left somewhat bewildered by the early goal - the first they had conceded in over 700 minutes - and lost their composure, which almost gifted Sonck a second before a quarter of an hour had even passed, when a cross came in and the forward, who had gotten away from Puyol, shot waywardly on the turn.

Things went from bad to worse moments later, as after a superb move involving Iniesta and David Villa saw the ball poked away from Torres, who had the goal at his mercy. The Liverpool ace pulled up with an injury and was substituted for Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas.

The European champions then slowly but surely began applying the pressure to their hosts, as promising build-up play from the likes of Fabregas and Santi Cazorla and David Villa had Belgium's defence on alert.

The Red Devils remained resolute at the back and for all Spain's possession around the area, it was going to take something special to break through the last line of defence, which Iniesta produced soon after the half-hour mark when he latched onto a Fabregas pass and beat two men within five metres of each other before rifling a shot home from the narrowest of angles.

It was then Sergio Ramos' turn to enter the fray. A bloody clash of heads with Marouane Fellaini was not to deter the Real Madrid star, as he was soon on his feet and played through David Villa with a superb pass, but the Valencia hit-man's cheeky lob went just over the bar.

Ramos was again the architect moments later when he curled in a perfect cross for David Villa, whose header called Stijn Stijnen into his first meaningful action of the evening, besides earlier picking the ball out of his net.

Belgium survived the Spanish inquisition, coming out strongly in the second half and almost took the lead when a pin-point corner found Fellaini, whose header was just wide of the mark.

The second period was proving to have just as frantic a start as the first, as Andres Iniesta tried a different approach for what would have been an equally stunning second, only for his curling, 20-yard effort to shave the bar and go over.

Another lapse from a Spanish full-back - this time Joan Capdevila - almost allowed Belgium to restore their lead, after Anthony Vanden Borre showed great tenacity to break into the area and roll an effort goalwards, only for Carles Puyol to clear it off the line.

The home pressure did not let up, as Vanden Borre then hit a ball over the top and Axel Witsel gave chase, beating Puyol before forcing a quick save from Iker Casillas.

As the hour mark approached, though, the hosts went back into their shell as Spain then looked to force the issue. They could not find a way through a resolute backline, led by Kompany, and in fact almost went behind but for a beautiful counterattacking move finished off by Fellaini to be deemed offside.

Spain continued to press, but fouls were being made and the game got a little scrappy. Sergio Ramos latched onto a superb Xavi pass and threatened to get a chance on goal, only for the ever-present Kompany to clear the danger.

With less than 20 minutes remaining, tempers boiled over for a split second as Thomas Vermaelen and Villa exchanged shoves. Fabregas, too, lost patience, but dealt with it in a more sporting manner, rifling a shot from distance that forced Stijnen to tip the ball over the bar.

Spain continued to press and Belgium's frustrations told as Jan Vertonghen talked himself into the book. Fabregas soon joined him after he made a cynical challenge to prevent Belgium breaking away on the counterattack.

Then with just three minutes of normal time remaining, Dani Guiza - who had just replaced goal-scorer Andres Iniesta in a curious move - supplied a cross from a somewhat unfamiliar position of left wing and David Villa was on hand to head home.

Belgium had half a chance to net a late equaliser - of which they would not have been totally undeserving - as Iker Casillas needlessly spilled a seemingly innocuous long ball, but Sergio Ramos hooked the ball to safety and the final whistle blew soon after.

Fernando Montabon,