PHOTO: ARXIU / Carmelo Rubio-RFEF

The Barça midfielder came on for Fernando Torres  on 73 minutes and with the Irish reeling under the World and European champions  mesmeric football, he smashed home the fourth goal to seal Spain’s first win of the competition and leave them top of their group on goal difference, following Italy’s 1-1 draw with Croatia earlier in the evening.

Barça midfielders dominate

Piqué. Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta all started for Del Bosque’s team who soon found themselves one up when Fernando Torres pounced on a defensive mix up to fire past Shay Given for the opener on four minutes – the first goal from a non-Barça player in the finals of an international tournament since the 2008 Euros. The Barça midfielders, backed up by Xabi Alonso, dominated the game as Spain played some fantastic football  with Torres and Silva up front threatening to double the lead throughout the first half.

Silva doubles the lead

After the break, that second goal soon came, as Silva cheekily slipped the ball through the legs of three Irish defenders and wide of Given, diving to his right. Ireland’s conservative tactics meant they were unable to offer much threat up front and Piqué easily snuffed out any small danger and enjoyed the opportunity to get up front and join in the attacking recital. Given made a great stop to deny Xavi and Busquets saw a shot go just wide before Torres got his second as he broke free of the Irish defence to make it 3-0.

Cesc makes it four

Fabregas, who started the first game against Italy, was brought on for Torres on 73 minutes and pretty soon made his case for another start when he fired home from a corner, smashing his shot against the far post and into the net to ensure Spain go into their final group game against Croatia on the front foot. Del Bosque’s team are level on 4 points with Croatia, with Italy on 2 and Ireland still to win a point.