Quick-fire treble spares Spanish blushes

SKOPJE - European champions Spain struck three times in a devastating five-minute spell to come from behind and beat Macedonia 3-2 in a friendly on Wednesday. Macedonia's Goran Pandev had made the most of a strangely sluggish start from Spain to net two stylish breakaway goals in the first half. Three strikes in quick succession from Fernando Torres, Gerard Pique and Albert Riera turned the game at the start of the second half to spare the visitors' blushes. Pandev rounded Pepe Reina after a swift counter-attack from a Spanish corner in the eighth minute, and after half an hour the Lazio striker turned Carles Puyol to fire under Reina for his second. The visitors burst into life at the start of the second half. Xavi crossed for Torres to head Spain's opener in the 51st minute, Pique pounced on a rebound as substitute Cesc Fabregas's shot came back off the post, and then another substitute Riera lashed a fierce drive high inside the near post. Vicente del Bosque gave Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez and Osasuna full back Nacho Monreal their debuts with Spain now dominating, but Macedonia refused to lie down and Darko Tasevski crashed a free kick against the crossbar near the end. Spain have a 100 percent record at the top of World Cup qualifying Group Five and host Belgium in their next game on September 5 when Macedonia, second in Group Nine, visit Scotland.