Second-half goals from Diego Tristán, Iván Helguera and substitute Joaquín Sánchez eventually saw Spain break down the resistance of a determined Armenia at the Antonio Amilivia stadium in León to move four points clear at the top of UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying Group 6.
Coach Iñaki Sáez made his attacking intentions clear from the start as Tristán and Juan Valerón came in alongside Raúl González, but Spain's striking triumverate struggled to make their presence count for much of the match against a well-organised Armenian defence marshalled resolutely by Romik Khachatryan, on his return from injury, and Harutyun Vardanyan.
Boosted by Saturday's 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in coach Mihai Stoichita's first match in charge, Armenia played with confidence and created the first opening of the match, Artur Petrosyan shooting narrowly wide after splitting the Spain defence after ten minutes.
Sáez made five changes in all from the side that had seen victory snatched late on in Saturday's 2-2 draw against Ukraine, and Spain looked disjointed in the early stages. On 12 minutes Joseba Etxeberría crossed for Tristán whose header was well saved by Roman Berezovsky low to his left, but otherwise the home side were largely channelled through the centre where they were forced to shoot from distance or see their attacks break down on the edge of the Armenia area.
Karamyan comes close
When the chance arose, Armenia broke with confidence and had Artavazd Karamyan shown more composure on 20 minutes when Artur Voskanyan's flick fell at his feet two metres out, Spain might have been more embarrassed than they were by a fitful first-half performance.
Only when Spain got the ball into wide positions did they threaten and, on 28 minutes, Berezovsky saved his side brilliantly, fisting away Tristán's goal-bound header off Raúl's cross from the left. But despite the clever build up play of Tristán, Valerón and Raúl, Spain lacked a cutting edge and, for all their possession, might have fallen behind on 53 minutes. Artavazd Karamyan shot powerfully from the edge of the area and Iker Casillas was stretched to the limit to turn the ball around the post.
Stung into life, Spain pressed forward, eventually breaking the deadlock on 62 minutes by finally stretching the Armenian defence down the left. Substitute Vicente Rodríguez broke to the by-line and pulled the ball back invitingly for Tristán to knock in from close range.
Helguera on target
Finally in front, Spain relaxed and had soon doubled their advantage. On 68 minutes Berezovsky brilliantly tipped Tristán's shot on the break into the side-netting, but the keeper was powerless to prevent Helguera, on his return from suspension, from heading in the resulting corner.
In added time, Joaquín collected Raúl's pass before chipping Berezovsky from the edge of area, giving Spain the convincing scoreline the home crowd had expected, if not one the performance had fully warranted.