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Second-half goals from Xavi Hernández, Daniel Güiza and David Silva sent Spain through to a UEFA EURO 2008 final meeting with Germany as Luis Aragonés's men proved too strong for Russia in Vienna.
Russia looked the team to beat as they scythed through the Netherlands in the last eight. But with thunderstorms lighting the sky above the Ernst-Happel-Stadion they struggled to get to grips with the occasion, and never looked like recovering after Xavi broke the deadlock five minutes after half-time, steering Andrés Iniesta's fine left-wing cross past Igor Akinfeev. Güiza added another with 17 minutes remaining before Silva completed a morale-boosting win for Spain ahead of Sunday's final, their first since 1984.
After their 4-1 defeat by Spain in the group stage 16 days ago, Russia coach Guus Hiddink complained he would have to "wake some players up". He seemed to have succeeded in breathtaking fashion, yet despite the driving rain and spectacular lightning that greeted the start of this semi-final, his charges looked to have slipped back into a torpor. It was not something that was troubling Sergio Ramos, though. Stung by criticism of his campaign to date in some quarters the Spain right-back started like a man possessed. He snapped into tackles, scampered down the wing and just failed to get on the end of Xavi's fifth-minute cross.
Ramos's team-mates soon took his lead, and as much as Aragonés does not like what he terms Spain's "mustard" away jerseys, he would have been glad his team were not in red. Disjointed at the back and sluggish in midfield, Russia were struggling to find their feet. It took a well-timed tackle from Vasili Berezutski – playing instead of the suspended Denis Kolodin – to deny Fernando Torres a run on goal though the striker soon tested Akinfeev with a shot on the turn. The Russia goalkeeper was in action again to deny David Villa as he fired in at the near post as Aragonés' ploy of using Iniesta to double up on the left wing caused confusion.
Russia were looking for Andrey Arshavin to lift them out of the mire but refuge instead came from the right boot of Roman Pavlyuchenko. The 26-year-old gave warning with a free-kick and it then took a stunning stop from Iker Casillas to deny him, diverting a blistering strike away from the top corner. It soon got better for Russia as the instigator of that group stage loss, hat-trick hero Villa, limped off and almost immediately Pavlyuchenko poked wide with the goal at his mercy. The profligacy was underlined five minutes after half-time when Spain's midfield Argus Marcos Senna turned over possession and fed Xavi. A smart exchange of passes later and La Roja were ahead.
In the crowd, Spain's Crown Princess Letizia bore a shocked expression but in truth it had been coming, and her side were soon on the hunt for more. Having found his range with the goal, Iniesta released Villa's replacement Cesc Fàbregas, and though the substitute ran out of space, Aragonés's decision to switch to a five-man midfield was proving profitable. It took an excellent challenge from Yuri Zhirkov to deny Torres before Fàbregas and Xabi Alonso had efforts tipped over.
Alonso had been introduced moments earlier alongside Güiza, and the latter soon sealed victory, lobbing Akinfeev after being put through by Fàbregas' perfectly-weighted dink over the defence. The No10 was the provider again moments later as his low cross was fired in by Silva. Next up, Germany.
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