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Clinical Spain make perfect start

Published: Saturday 7 September 2002, 17.54CET
Greece 0-2 Spain Goals from Raúl González and Juan Valerón ensure victory for Spain.
Published: Saturday 7 September 2002, 17.54CET

Clinical Spain make perfect start

Greece 0-2 Spain Goals from Raúl González and Juan Valerón ensure victory for Spain.

Greece 0-2 Spain
Iñaki Sáez was victorious in his first competitive match as Spanish national coach to leave his side already in an excellent position in EURO 2004™ Qualifying Group 6.

Flowing match
Greece had high hopes of securing a useful result in Athens against the group favourites, but goals from Raúl González and Juan Valerón in a flowing match gave the visiting side all three points.

New Spain era
In Spain's first game since the international retirement of stalwarts Fernando Hierro and Luis Enrique, Sáez started with captain Raúl González as the lone - but rarely isolated - striker. The home side had Giorgios Karagounis on the bench after his recent injury, and showed their intent early on in front of a fervent crowd.

Early lead
However, slightly against the initial run of play, it was Spain that grabbed the lead on eight minutes. The ball came out to Valerón on the left, and his laid-off pass was struck home first time from the edge of the area by the onrushing Raúl González - who equalled Hierro's record tally of Spanish international goals.

Iker Casillas magisterial
Xavi Hernández then sent a shot just over the bar two minutes later, but the play was flowing from end to end in a high-quality opening to the game, the main difference between the sides perhaps Iker Casillas's magisterial presence in the Spanish goal.

Greece shut out
And as time went on, Spain were able to close the game, and by the time Karagounis was introduced in the 38th minute for the injured Konstantinos Konstantinidis, Greece's chances had dried up, the substitute's only contribution to the rest of the first half a booking for a foul on Xavi.

Basinas unlucky
The second half began in the same breathless fashion as the first, and a great chance came for Greece eleven minutes from the re-start, but half-time substitute Angelos Basinas saw his 25-metre lob hit the crossbar with Iker Casillas beaten.

Valerón on target
Spain then introduced Gaizka Mendieta and Rubén Baraja to reignite their attack, as time began to run out for Greece. And with 13 minutes remaining, Valerón doubled their lead, powerfully shooting home inside the area after, in a reversal of the first goal, a lay-off from Raúl González.

One more chance
There was still one more chance for Greece, when with seven minutes to go substitute Zisis Vryzas saw his looping header cleared off the line by García Calvo.

Happy first day
But Spain had done enough, and completed a happy first day of qualifying, having already learnt that second seeds Ukraine had been held by Armenia.

Last updated: 12/10/02 17.37CET