Supersubs make the difference for resilient Spanish

Spain 3 Tunisia 1

Spain 3 Tunisia 1

Spain progressed to the second stage of the World Cup tonight courtesy of a three-goal second-half blitz as they came from behind to beat Tunisia.

Substitute Raul’s 71st-minute goal cancelled out Jaouhar Mnari seventh-minute effort before Fernando Torres struck home three minutes later.

Torres added his third of the tournament one minute from time with a penalty having been held inside the area by Alaeddine Yahia.

Luis Aragones’ substitutions after the re-start, with Real Madrid’s Raul and Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas brought on, spurred the Spaniards to victory.

Having got their noses in front, Tunisia seemed content to hold on to their lead, sitting deep and inviting the Spaniards to come onto them.

Aragones had relied on the same starting XI that humbled Ukraine 4-0, with David Villa and Torres leading the attack.

Tunisia boss Roger Lemerre made just two changes to the team that drew 2-2 against Saudi Arabia in their Group H opener, with Birmingham midfielder Mehdi Nafti replacing David Jemmali and Anis Ayari earning a place in defence.

Spain came out all guns blazing and had their first chance in the very first minute with Luis Garcia’s heading wide from Xavi’s corner.

The Spaniards continued to surge forward and Villa almost broke the deadlock shortly after, with his right-footed effort from the edge of the area going inches wide of goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel’s near post.

Their early efforts proved to no avail as it was Tunisia that went ahead in the seventh minute, much to the shock of the Spanish fans at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion.

Spain gave the ball away in their own half and it proved costly as Zied Jaziri ran towards the Spanish area, dribbled past two defenders before setting up Mnari inside the box.

Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas did well to save Mnari’s first attempt but the ball returned to the midfielder who made no mistake this time.

Spain reacted immediately with Villa’s central free-kick forcing Boumnijel to punch away.

Torres should have equalised midway through the first-half but his close-range effort went way off target, much to Aragones’ despair.

Hatem Trabelsi made a crucial tackle in his own area as Torres threatened to break clear while at the other end, Carles Puyol was booked for a late challenge on Trabelsi.

Spain pressed forward more aggressively and their efforts should have been rewarded had Villa’s header from Xavi’s free-kick not gone wide.

Xavi then tried his luck from long distance with his curled free-kick almost surprising Boumnijel, but it fizzed just wide of the far post as Spain got closer.

Boumnijel then made a spectacular save from Torres’ powerful strike from the edge of the area.

On the stroke of half-time, Ayari’s crucial header from the goalline denied Xabi Alonso’s close-range effort.

Tunisia were quite happy to sit back and it was the Spaniards who continued to control the game after the re-start.

In the 47th minute, Xavi warmed the hands of Boumnijel with a stinging drive which the goalkeeper did well to palm away.

Boumnijel remained heavily involved as he cleared a long-distance effort from Mariano Pernia and was shortly after forced to come out of his line to punch away another dangerous ball from the Spaniards.

With Spain unable to force their way through the middle, Aragones brought in winger Joaquin for Villa in the hope that his men would find a more successful route out wide.

Lemerre’s men were riding their luck and on the hour mark Pernia’s effort from long range went inches wide of the far post.

They took their time but Spain finally broke through.

Joaquin’s cross from the right found Fabregas, whose strike was parried by Boumnijel and the ball fell to Raul, who finished well.

The goal inspired the men in red, who went on to take the lead three minutes later.

Fabregas served an unmarked Torres outside Tunisia’s area and the striker rounded the goalkeeper and stabbed home.

Torres should have struck his second of the evening two minutes from time but his close-range effort was superbly saved by Boumnijel.

Spain still had time to add their third after Brazilian referee Carlos Simon pointed to the spot with Yahia clearly holding Torres inside the area.

Boumnijel did get a touch on Torres’ strike towards the near post but the ball entered the net, much to the joy of the Spanish fans.

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