Villa overtakes Raul as Spain down Czechs 2-1

Reuters

Sat, 26 Mar 00:24:00 2011

* Villa becomes Spain's record goal-scorer

* Nets double as Czech Republic beaten 2-1 in Granada (writes through with quotes, details)

David Villa became Spain's record goal-scorer when he struck twice as the world champions came from behind to beat Czech Republic 2-1 in a Euro 2012 qualifier on Friday.

After Jaroslav Plasil gave the Czechs a shock 29th-minute lead in the Group I clash in Granada, Villa equalised for the world and European champions in the 69th and added a second from the penalty spot four minutes later.

They were his 45th and 46th goals for his country, putting him two clear of former Real Madrid striker Raul and helping Spain maintain their perfect qualification record with four wins in four matches.

"I want to dedicate goal number 45 to all my team mates," Villa, whose five goals fired Spain to their first World Cup triumph last year, said in an interview with Spanish television.

Villa made his Spain debut against San Marino in February 2005. He was the leading marksman at Euro 2008 when the Iberian nation won their second continental championship and joint top scorer at the World Cup in South Africa.

Nicknamed "el guaje", or "the kid", the 29-year-old Asturian has taken 72 appearances to break the record, while Raul played 102 games, the last in 2006.

"Villa is a boy with a lot of poise in front of goal," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said at a news conference.

ENOUGH PERSONALITY

With playmaker Xavi making his 100th appearance, Spain immediately put the Czech goal under pressure on a warm Andalucian evening.

Andres Iniesta tested keeper Petr Cech with a snap shot in the second minute before Joan Capdevila flashed a header narrowly wide.

Villa then stung Cech's hands with a powerful volley from Alvaro Arbeloa's cross in the 26th minute but the visitors grabbed the lead three minutes later with their first shot on goal.

Plasil collected the ball in an innocuous-looking position in central midfield before letting fly from 30 metres.

Spain were facing the prospect of their first dropped points in a qualifying match since a 1-1 draw against Iceland in Sept. 2007.

Del Bosque brought on Fernando Torres for Xabi Alonso at halftime before Villa, who joined La Liga champions Barcelona from Valencia at the end of last season for a fee of 40 million euros ($57 million), finally beat Cech with a low shot from just outside the area.

Cech almost saved Villa's penalty shortly after but the ball squirmed into the net despite the Chelsea keeper getting a hand to the shot after Iniesta was felled.

"Their goal set us back a great deal," Del Bosque said.

"It cost us some effort to react but we had enough personality to turn the game around," he added.

"Twelve points from four matches is the ideal position but we have to keep it up."

HARSH WINTER

Czech coach Michal Bilek said he and his players were disappointed after failing to spring a surprise.

"Obviously the Spanish dominated the game and played with a lot of patience and in the end got the goals they needed," he told a news conference.

"During the match we did not see much of the ball and our stamina was falling away at the end," he added. "It's a shame we couldn't get the draw."

Spain next play Lithuania in Kaunas on Tuesday. The Lithuanian soccer federation said on Friday the game was still on despite worries about the state of the pitch after a harsh winter in the Baltic nation.

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