Thursday, 31 May 2012

Torres on Target Against South Korea

Fernando Torres scored on his return to the international fold as Spain continued their preparations for Euro 2012 with an impressive 4-1 win over South Korea in Bern.

The Chelsea forward opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a neatly flicked header from Benat Etxebarria's fine cross. However, a wonder strike from Kim Do-Heon brought the Koreans level two minutes before half-time.

Xabi Alonso quickly restored the World and European champions lead after the break from the penalty spot after Choi Hyo-Jin handled Nacho Monreal's shot and Santi Cazorla's clever free-kick extended their advantage four minutes later.

Vicente del Bosque then made a raft of substitutions and two of the replacements combined for the fourth with 11 minutes remaining as Roberto Soldado's through-ball was smashed home by Alvaro Negredo.

Del Bosque had handed Torres his first start since August last year as one of seven changes from the side that started Saturday's 2-0 win over Serbia.

And the former Atletico Madrid man almost made an immediate impact as he diverted Cazorla's driven shot towards goal and the ball flew inches past.

Kim Jin-Hyeon was then called into action to parry Alonso's powerful effort from the edge of the area, but Spain's bright start was eventually rewarded moments later as Torres timed his run perfectly to flick Benat's cross into the top corner.

The world champions continued to threaten as the South Korea goalkeeper did well to turn away another Cazorla effort before David Silva's curling shot flashed just off target.

However, their pressure eased slightly midway through the half and the Koreans began to create some opportunities on the counter-attack.

Son Heung-Min came close to levelling the scores as his shot from outside the area went inches wide before Yeom Ki Hun's inviting cross just evaded a number of team-mates waiting to apply the final touch inside the area.

The Asians did eventually find the net in spectacular style on 43 minutes though as Kim picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and fired an unstoppable shot high into Jose Reina's top right-hand corner.

Juan Mata passed up a great chance to restore Spain's lead just before half-time as he side-footed wide when one-on-one with the keeper, but it took only seven minutes of the second half for another opportunity to arise as Choi was somewhat harshly ruled to have deliberately handled Monreal's fiercely struck effort.

Alonso stepped up and comfortably rolled home the penalty for his 13th international goal.

The third goal arrived in similar circumstances as Cazorla's free-kick went underneath the wall - which had already jumped - and into the bottom corner.

The Atletico Madrid duo of Adrian Lopez and Alvaro Dominguez then came on alongside Negredo and Soldado to replace Sergio Ramos, Torres, Cazorla and Mata - but Silva continued to be the bright spark as he fired just over and saw another effort well saved.

In the end though it was Negredo who rounded off a fine evening for Del Bosque's men as he latched onto Soldado's defence-splitting pass and hammered his effort underneath the keeper to stake his claim for some game time when the champions begin the defence of their European crown against Italy on June 10.

Before then Spain play China in a final preparation match on Sunday in Seville, when Del Bosque will also be able to call upon the nine players in his 23-man squad from Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao for the first time ahead of the tournament.

Spain manager Vicente del Bosque was delighted to see Torres on target.

'He is one of those players that offers speed, movement and combination play with his team-mates,' Del Bosque said. 'He seemed delighted with the goal and this is good for everyone.'

Del Bosque was still without the nine Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao players who will join the squad in preparation for the European Championship on Friday, having been allowed time to rest after the Copa del Rey final, so six players who had missed out on the 23-man squad were included.

'Everyone has been great,' Del Bosque said, 'even though they know come Friday they will not be here.

'This hasn't just been a preparation but they have put in place the roots for the future of the national team.

'The Barcelona and Athletic players return to activity when we get back for the friendly against China. I hope we have a great atmosphere there and it will be a good send-off before the Euros.'

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