Spain looked much improved from their opening encounter against Japan, overwhelming New Zealand 3-1 in their second Group C contest at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Their second win of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010 is not quite enough to guarantee the Spaniards a place in the quarter-finals, but they are looking good for passage to the all-important knockout rounds and only need to avoid a heavy defeat in the final outing against Venezuela to progress.
The first half was a balanced affair with both teams battling it out in midfield and moving the ball around with style and panache. Spain, though, were buoyed by an early goal. Gema Gili stepped up and lashed a vicious shot from 35 yards that caught the Oceanian goalkeeper off her line with the ball soaring into the back of the net.
The plucky New Zealanders were not dismayed by the early setback, however, and they grabbed an equaliser on the quarter-hour mark when Kate Loye latched onto a rebound from Holly Patterson’s fierce strike from distance. The Spaniards, stunned into a response, began to press forward in numbers. Raquel Pinel had a fine header saved and Fran Merida was just off target with her shot from well outside the box.
Spain managed to get it right after the break. Merida hit home with a curling free-kick three minutes after the restart to make it 2- 1, and after that the Europeans had control of the ball almost exclusively. Merida tried again from distance in the 58th minute, but Chloe-May Geurts made a find diving save to keep New Zealand in the hunt. Minutes later, Nagore Calderon had a chance from close range that was again well saved by the Kiwi net-minder. From there on out, the New Zealanders were increasingly getting pushed back into their defensive third and looked dangerous only from counter-attacks.
In the 73rd minute, substitute Paloma Lazaro, with her first touch of the ball, forced Geurts into another fine diving save. Spain were in desperate need of an insurance goal and Lazaro was the one who provided it in the 86th minute, heading home a cross from Ana Maria Catala. Spain will finish off their Group C campaign on Monday in Marabella against Venezuela, while Japan and New Zealand close their account in Tobago.