World Cup 2006 - Play-off, first leg
Spain 5 - Slovakia 1
Spain virtually secured a place in next summer's World Cup with a 5-1 win over Slovakia. The hero of the night was Luis García, who had a hand in all but one of the goals (including the one scored by the opposite side) and completed his hat-trick before going off to a standing ovation by the crowd. The Liverpool midfielder had his name on the scoreboard twice within twenty minutes, heading Xavi's corner past Contofalsky and then adding a second after combining once again with his ex Barcelona team mate. After that Spain could have scored a hatful, with Fernando Torres hitting the bar and Raúl having a strike ruled out incorrectly for offside before the interval. However Slovakia brought on Nemeth at the break and within three minutes the Middlesbrough striker intercepted a shocking back-pass by Luis García to drill a shot wide of Casillas.
That was the away goal that everybody in Spain feared, but twenty minutes in to the second half Luis García broke into the penalty box, and defender Kratochvil slid in to carry the ball away with his arm. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and then dished out a second yellow card to Had for protesting, and when Fernando Torres drove the spot kick high in to the net Spain were back on track. It didn't take long after that for Luis García to complete his hat-trick, getting on the end of a fierce cross from Vicente to turn the ball inside the near post. And two minutes later he was replaced by his Liverpool team mate Morientes, who made his mark almost immediately heading a fifth goal from another Vicente cross. It was the final blow for Slovakia, and the return leg in Bratislava next Wednesday must now just be a formality. (12.11.05)