MADRID - Defender Gerard Pique scored his first goal for Spain to give the European champions a comfortable 1-0 win over Turkey in their World Cup qualifying Group Five match on Saturday. The 22-year-old, playing only his second match for the national side, turned the ball in from close range on the hour after Xavi's floated free kick from the right had ricocheted back across goal off Sergio Ramos. The win cemented Spain's lead at the top of the group with a maximum 15 points from five matches ahead of Bosnia on nine and Turkey on eight. The Turks, who reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008, did well to cramp the Spanish midfield in a tight first half and threatened Iker Casillas's goal on several occasions. A low shot from captain Nihat Kahveci flashed just wide of the post in the sixth minute and Nihat's strike partner Semih Senturk also went close shortly after. Fernando Torres had Spain's best opening of the first period just before the break. The Liverpool striker controlled a pass from Xavi on the edge of the area and his powerful shot was palmed away by Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel. Spain midfielders Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Marcos Senna were able to control the play much more effectively in the second half and after Pique broke the deadlock the home side had several chances for a second. Demirel punched away a fierce volley from Alonso and Ramos came close with an overhead kick and a left-foot drive that flew over the bar. "They put up a lot of resistance and played well in the first half, creating two or three good opportunities," Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque told a news conference. "But in the second our defence was hardly troubled and we had some clear chances to extend the lead." The two teams meet again on Wednesday in Istanbul and another victory for Spain would virtually assure their place in South Africa next year. They are now unbeaten in 30 matches stretching back to a 1-0 home defeat against Romania in November 2006 and have won their last 20, if the penalty shootout victory over Italy at Euro 2008 is included. Turkey coach Fatih Terim praised his players for their performance in the first half and said the match in Istanbul would be different. "We had three clear chances on goal and couldn't convert them," he said at a news conference. "Of course we can beat Spain."
28 March 2009
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