David Villa’s second half double was enough to give a disjointed Spain side a 2-0 win over El Salvador on Saturday.
Vicente Del Bosque gave Diego Costa only his second cap, hoping to give the striker a fitness test before the World Cup starts for La Roja in under a week’s time.
The Atletico Madrid man was placed alongside Cesc and Pedro, with Xabi Alonso, Koke and Andres Iniesta also lining up against the minnows in Washington’s FedEx Field.
And it didn’t take long for La Roja to get into the swing of things. After only four minutes, a long ball found Costa and with the goalscorer through one-on-one, he was swiftly taken out by goalkeeper Henry Hernandez. It looked harsh, and justice was swiftly done, with Cesc firing the resulting penalty well over the bar.
The Central American side were struggling against FIFA’s world number ones, and Pedro had their second chance to open the scoring 10 minutes in. Another ball over the top found the Barcelona forward, but Hernandez was there to save well.
It was clear tactic from the world champions – instead of their traditional tiki-taka, Del Bosque’s side were opting for the long, diagonal balls. If it was a Plan B for the tournament in Brazil, it was working early on. Both Pedro and Cesc were found in acres of space, but their shooting boots didn’t seem to have made their way to the American capital.
Albert Roca’s men were offering nothing going forward, but in the searing mid-afternoon sun, the tempo from both sides was leisurely. The major concern was picking up any potential injuries, and both Juanfran and Jordi Alba went down after heavy challenges. Thankfully though, both were okay.
After the break, a trio of substitutions for Spain seemed to liven things up in attack, with Villa, David Silva and Santi Cazorla all coming on. However, at the back, they seemed to be taken some liberties – with Sergio Ramos getting caught in possession inside his own area. Luckily for the Real Madrid man, his clubmate Iker Casillas was on his toes, and blocked a shot from Rafael Burgos.
All those changes did eventually pay on the hour mark as La Roja’s class finally told. A cross from Alonso found Ramos at the back post, who headed back across goal for Villa to tap into an empty net.
The constant rotation of subs made the match slightly subdued after that, with the world champions happy to just keep the ball and refrain from getting any unnecessary niggles. Villa looked constantly dangerous, having a couple of snapshots blocked by the goalkeeper.
But there was nothing he could do about the New York City goalscorer’s effort in the 88th minute. A cross from Silva was perfectly weighted, and there was Villa to poke home his and Spain’s second.
El Salvador 0-2 Spain
Scorers: Villa 61, 88 (S)
El Salvador: Hernandez; Barrios, Mendoza, Garcia, Larin; Alvarez (Alas 65), Ceren, Menjivar, Santamaria (Renderos 57); Burgos, Flores (Molina 75)
Spain: Casillas (De Gea 83); Juanfran, Ramos, Javi Martínez, Jordi Alba; Xabi Alonso (Busquets 68); Koke, Iniesta (Cazorla 45), Pedro (Villa 45), Cesc (Silva 45), Diego Costa (Xavi 74)
Missed pen: Cesc 4 (S)