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Spain climb clear with Lithuania win

Spain 3-1 Lithuania
The holders took a firm grip on Group I through two Fernando Llorente goals and David Silva's spectacular strike.

Spain climb clear with Lithuania win
Spain climb clear with Lithuania win ©UEFA.com

European champions Spain took control of qualifying Group I thanks to two goals from Fernando Llorente and a wonderful strike by David Silva.

All the goals came in the second half and only when Darvydas Šernas equalised in the 54th minute did Vicente del Bosque's side, playing in their coach's home city of Salamanca, truly show their class. They now have a two-point advantage over Lithuania and Scotland, Spain's hosts on Tuesday, after a perfect start to their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign.

Although Spain's list of absentees looked daunting, only three of those who started the FIFA World Cup final were actually missing – Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernández and Pedro Rodríguez. Santi Cazorla,  Llorente and Silva were the beneficiaries but the loss of Alonso to illness also changed the tactical pattern from the traditional 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-4-1.

Del Bosque had warned those who expected a "comfortable" victory to think again and Lithuania were well organised. Twice in the first 17 minutes Silva hit fierce low shots but Žydrūnas Karčemarskas was untroubled in dealing with them. What followed was rare imprecision from La Roja and Sergio Ramos cracked a free header off the post. Then when Llorente gave notice of his special night by forcing a fine save from Karčemarskas, Villa surprisingly sent his simple chance spinning wide of the post.

The visitors took heart. Just before the interval Tomas Danilevičius profited from a quick pass by Edgaras Česnauskis but Iker Casillas saved before Saulius Mikoliunas burst through but missed. However, immediately after the break Ramos found the pace to get towards the byline and cross perfectly for Llorente to head in with Karčemarskas out of position. Lithuania only waited seven minutes before replying; Šemberas found winning space and possession in midfield unusually easy and when the ball came to Šernas he finished clinically.

Now the game was tremendously exciting and less than two minutes later Spain were ahead again. This time Cazorla affected a clever trick on the right and crossed to the far post, where Llorente headed in magnificently. When Silva added a cherry on the icing he did so in style, looping an unstoppable header over the goalkeeper's outstretched right hand and the Salamanca crowd celebrated. Partly in joy, partly in relief after a difficult night was turned into a fitting tribute to the world and European champions.