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Record-breaker Villa rides to Spain's rescue

Spain 2-1 Czech Republic
David Villa became his country's all-time top scorer with a second-half double after the visitors had taken the lead in Granada.

Spanish players rush to congratulate David Villa on his winner
Spanish players rush to congratulate David Villa on his winner ©Getty Images

Two outstanding David Villa goals in the second half gave the Spain striker his country's all-time scoring record plus three points to Vicente Del Bosque's side against a daring Czech Republic.

Michal Bílek's team had led the UEFA EURO 2012 Group I qualifier thanks to a crashing Jaroslav Plašil drive just before the half-hour, but Villa chose the most appropriate and spectacular manner to eclipse Raúl Gonzàlez's goal tally. His second, a 73rd-minute penalty, came soon after the FC Barcelona man had set the record outright with his 45th strike in 72 appearances.

Although the European and world champions looked lethargic for much of the first half, their visitors − structured, quick and decisive in their play − deserved credit for the shock lead. Bílek asked his two central midfielders, Plašil and Tomáš Hübschman, to form a footballing pincer so that Villa, isolated as the sole striker in the first period, had no room for manoeuvre when the two centre-backs squeezed up.

The Czechs earned reward with their shock lead. Villa's 25th-minute volley, slapped away by Petr Čech, was the precursor to Plašil rasping a drive in off Iker Casillas's left-hand post from 30 metres. Del Bosque's men struggled to get out of first gear but Villa laid siege to Čech's goal. Twice before the break, with a header from Alvaro Arbeloa's right-wing cross and a neat turn and shot, he drew saves.

However, the real sea change came when Del Bosque withdrew first Xabi Alonso, at half-time, and then Joan Capdevila shortly afterwards so that Fernando Torres and Santi Cazorla could increase Spain's firepower. Andrés Iniesta dropped into a familiar midfield role and ran the match.

His crisp pass to feet in the 69th minute helped Villa break the record, and Czech hearts, with a skip past Roman Hubník and a firm shot under Čech. Within four minutes Spain were ahead. Iniesta was felled by Jan Rezek and from the spot Villa crashed his effort into the inside panel of the Czech goal with such power than even the keeper's valiant fingertip dive could not produce a save.