Spain smash lacklustre USA to top Group D
The United States and Spain lined up in Lahti for an intriguing encounter to decide Group D’s top finisher. With a slew of changes to the squad, the Americans looked out of sorts from the start. And despite throwing Freddy Adu on late, a goal in each half from Jurado and Cesc saw John Ellinger’s North Americans run ragged by Juan Santisteban’s scintillating Spain – reduced to ten men just seconds before the half.
Real Madrid’s Jurado grabbed a great goal for the Iberians after only 11 minutes. Slicing through the ragged U.S. defence, he saw his shot deflected off the leg of new defender Adrian Chevannes and cruelly over another new face, keeper Quentin Westberg – in for usual number one Phil Marfuggi. (0-1, 11’)
Raul Llorente went close only ten minutes later, but Westberg did well to tip it over the bar. Despite a few dangerous moments from the gifted and scrappy Jaime Watson roving alone up front, the first half belonged to the cultured Europeans – even without star striker David in the starting eleven. With nine shots to the Americans’ two, Spain were in simply dazzling form.
“Jamie did the best he could up there,” said Ellinger. “But without Freddy (Adu) he had his work cut out for him…my hat is off to Spain. Technically they are wonderful, and their defence was very tough.”
With Danny Szetela doing his all to plug holes in the middle of the park, the States – with five usual starters on the bench - were lucky not to have gone into the locker-room losing by more. Controlling possession with 62 percent in the first half and with a score of chances, Spain had the U.S. on the back foot for a full 45 minutes.
“We work on possession all the time,” said Ellinger. “But we will have to keep the ball more if we are going to become a better team.”
Silva - Spain’s three-goal hero against Korea - went from hero to goat as he swung a lazy arm at Guillermo Gonzalez and was promptly shown red from Brazilian referee Lopes Heber for a fiery end to the first period.
“Silva is an important player for us, and it is sad to lose him for the quarter-final (against Portugal),” coach Juan Santisteban said. “But we have other players who can do the same.”
arhorse Corey Ashe came on in the second half to spark the lethargic U.S. But instead of grabbing a goal, he only managed to earn himself a second yellow card of the tournament. He is now only one away from a match ban.
“Sometimes his (Ashe’s) emotions get the better of him,” said Ellinger. “But I will have a talk with him and I am sure he will be fine.”
The numerically inferior Spanish were not the same smashing side that ran riot in the first half, as the distant flashes of lightning were the only sparks on display in a desultory second period.
Ellinger threw caution to the wind and brought on Adu in the 65th minute to a rolling roar from the crowd. With two yellow cards from the previous two matches, it was a sizeable gamble for the gaffer.
Despite adding a decided spark, it was not Adu that started the fire. Barcelona boy Cesc rifled a long-range blast past Westburg to settle the score and see Spain win a contentious Group D. (0-2, 70’)
After the match, Cesc was humble about his wonder-strike. “I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I just stepped up and hit it.”
The U.S. will now travel to Turku to take on Group C winners Brazil in their quarter-final, while Spain will take part in all-Iberian duel with Portugal in Tampere
About his team’s chances in a rematch of the UEFA U-17 championship Spain boss Santisteban is hopeful.
“If we play the way we did today, and up to our potential I think we can do very well,” he said. “If we don’t – then it will be a different story.”
Ellinger has his doubts about a showdown with Brilliant Brazil, but is also holding out hope.
“If we play the way we did today, and don’t keep possession of the ball against Brazil, we could be in for some serious hurt.”