Second half goals from Xavi and Alvaro Negredo gave Spain a hard-fought 2-1 win over Belarus on Friday.
La Roja started the match with debutante Michu leading the line in Mallorca, whilst Victor Valdes was preferred to Iker Casillas in between the posts. Vicente Del Bosque’s men went into the game knowing that they needed four points from their final two World Cup qualifiers to be assured of making Brazil next summer.
And they started the match looking like the current World champions, keeping the ball with ease but failing to break down Belarus’ five-man defence.
It was Pedro though, who created the best opening of the early exchanges, racing down the left-hand side and hanging up a cross for Michu. Aljaksandar Hutar however, was equal to it and palmed the ball away for a corner.
The hosts’ were beginning to break down the visitors now, but with 20 minutes played, their 79 per cent possession was failing to bring any real clear-cut chances on goal.
David Silva, Pedro and Michu again all had half-chances at the Belarusian goal, but not one of them tested the keeper in a disappointing half.
After the break, Andres Iniesta came in for Nacho Monreal as Spain resorted to a back-three but it didn’t seem to make much difference as the away team kept on frustrating the Roja.
But on the hour mark, Del Bosque’s side eventually broke the deadlock as Xavi drove a volley in from the edge of the area.
And the lead was doubled late on thanks to Negredo, who headed home a superb Sergio Ramos cross for the right-hand side.
Sergey Kornilenko managed to get one back late on for Belarus, but Spain held on for a hard-fought three points.
Spain 2-1 Belarus
Scorers: Xavi 60 (S), Negredo 77 (S); Kornilenko 89 (B)
Spain: Valdés; Arbeloa, Ramos, Piqué, Monreal (Iniesta 45); Busquets, Xavi, Silva; Pedro, Michu (Negredo 54), Cesc (Koke 84)
Belarus: Veremko, Martynovich (Kisylak 81), Verkhovtsov, Bordachev, Filipenko, Dragun, Zhavnerchik, Putilo, Balanovich, Kornilenko, Kalachev