Spain beats Puerto Rico 2-1 in friendly
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (AP) -Santi Cazorla and Cesc Fabregas scored in the first-half to give Spain a 2-1 win over Puerto Rico in an international friendly Wednesday, its first match since winning European championship in July.
Spain kept the home team on its heels throughout the first half, finally getting on the board when Cazorla found the back of the net after 42 minutes.
Fabregas knocked in another off a low volley with less than a minute left in the half to give Spain a 2-0 lead at the break.
Puerto Rico scored 19-minutes into the second half off a low strike by Marc Cintron.
The match, played outside the capital San Juan, marked the first-ever game between Spain and Puerto Rico. It comes just days before the start of Spain's top-tier La Liga league, where many of the national team make their living.
Spain, the reigning World Cup and European champion, is the top-ranked team in the world. Puerto Rico is pegged at 138th by FIFA.
The mismatch found Spain playing at less than full speed as Puerto Rico packed the box with as many as nine defenders who were kept under nearly constant pressure from the Spanish side.
Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque said the humid Caribbean heat may played a factor in the low-scoring match. He also credited Puerto Rico's defense-first focus.
"We did what we had to do, but we weren't sharp,'' he said.
Puerto Rico goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, who plays for Major League Soccer side New York Red Bulls, was kept busy throughout the match and made a number of diving saves to keep the home team within reach.
The island squad was focused first on simply clearing the ball out of the danger zone and its attack consisted mainly of hopeful long balls for a single striker. Cintron's strike that beat goalkeeper Pepe Reina was Puerto Rico's lone solid shot of the game.
Spain will not leave its whirlwind trip to Puerto Rico without a setback. Defender Juanfran left with a knee injury after 18 minutes, clouding his status for Atletico Madrid's upcoming opener in La Liga.
Spain's colors were prominent in the crowd at Ramon Loubriel Stadium, with liberal sprinklings of Barcelona and Madrid shirts. But the home Blue Hurricanes drew the cheers.
The Spanish squad was set to fly home Wednesday night.
A Spanish colony from the 1500s until 1898, Puerto Rico has been trying to boost its football status. Its national team already has been eliminated in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, finishing second to Canada in a group that included St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia. The Puerto Rico Islanders of the North American Soccer League are in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Puerto Rico coach Jeaustin Campos said it was mission accomplished on the Caribbean island that is best known as a baseball hotbed.
"We didn't roll over for the best team in the world,'' he said.
Spain, preparing for its opening World Cup qualifier at Georgia on Sept. 11, was without Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, David Villa and Jordi Alba. Sevilla forward Alvaro Negredo also was left out.