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Spain beat US thanks to late wonder goal from Xavi


Santander (Spain) : Spain completed their preparations for Euro 2008 with a late 1-0 defeat of the US.

The hosts won Wednesday in rainy Santander thanks to a late wonder goal from Barcelona midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez.

Spain will now go to Austria and Switzerland as Europe’s form team, having won 16 and drawn two out of their last 18 games.

Without injury victims David Villa and Andres Iniesta, Spain struggled to break down a well-drilled US defence – until Xavi decided to take the bull by the horns, that is.

With just 12 minutes left, the little Catalan picked the ball up just outside the penalty area, then calmly skipped past three defenders and made it 1-0 with a classy low drive.

The wonder goal was a fair reward for the hosts’ domination and persistence.

“They made things hard for us in the first half,” Xavi told Television Espanola at the end.

“But we improved our rythym in the second half and started to create chances.”

Xavi added that “the sensations are good, our philosophy is clear, and we will fight really hard (at Euro 2008).”

15 minutes before his goal Xavi had hit the US crossbar with an impudent free-kick. Just three minutes after that Marcos Senna had culminated a lovely flowing move by hitting the post.

If the Spaniards dominated the second half, however, the first half belonged to the US- and especially to Eddie Johnson.

In the 23rd minute the lively striker had a “goal” disallowed for a narrow offisde. Then Johnson forced a sharp low save from Spain keeper Iker Casillas.

It was third time unlucky for Johnson right at the start of the second half, when he missed from close range. But from then on Spain took charge and upped the tempo of their slick passing game – and were rewarded with Xavi’s handsome strike.

Spain will make their Euro 2008 debut on June in Innsbruck against Russia.

Earlier on Wednesday Russia came from behind to thrash Lithuania 4-1 in front of a poor crowd in Moscow.

Mantas Savenas gave Lithuania a shock lead, against the run of play, in the 24th minute. Just nine minutes later, though, Konstantin Zurianov levelled for Russia.

Andrei Arshavin made it 2-1 for the hosts seven minutes into the second half. Roman Pavluchenko added a third goal in the 64th minute, Vladimir Bystrov completed the rout ten minutes from time.