A sunny afternoon crowd of 36,535 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami saw the world champions Spain hold off a spirited Haitian side 2-1 today.
Champions League winner Javi Martinez got the start for Spain ahead of Sergio Busquets in place of the injured Xabi Alonso. Of interest coming into the match is how Spain would cope without Alonso.
Jesus Navas, whose move to Manchester City is imminent, started on the right side for Spain but failed to impress. Haitian left back Donald Guerrier Wilde got the best of him.
The Spanish side, who are preparing for the FIFA Confederations Cup, began strongly. Chelsea’s Fernando Torres attempted an acrobatic side volley that drifted just wide in minute six. But just two minutes later, Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla opened the scoring from 25 yards away beating Haitian goalkeeper Frandy Montrevil to the near post.
In minute 18, Martinez made a surging run from his deep midfield position and Torres played a nice ball in his path but the shot went wide of the target. A minute later though, Spain doubled their advantage with a second goal from open play; A clever ball from Chelsea’s Juan Mata played in Cesc Fabregas to make it 2-0 with a rare header.
Spain would take the 2-0 advantage into halftime and were full value for the two-goal lead. Haiti’s moments of possession were limited and the team were often playing with 8 or 9 men behind the ball.
The second half started with more Spanish possession but Haiti’s touches and movement became more comfortable and more pronounced as the Spaniards wilted in the heat. With the crowd cheering every Haitian touch in the Spanish half, the Caribbean nation enjoyed an excellent spell of possession between minutes 53 and 57.
Minutes after entering the action, Roberto Soldado broke through the Haitian defense but just missed the target. Then Spain settled into the normal passing game, but looked ever susceptible on the counter. In minute 75, a complete Spanish defensive breakdown led to Donald Guerrier Wilde beating Pepe Reina and bringing the largely pro-Haitian crowd to life.
Haiti produced a few more half chances largely on the counter and were able to prevent Spain from scoring a third. The match ended 2-1 in a stadium where Haiti will face Trinidad & Tobago next month in CONCACAF Gold Cup action.
Post match, Spain manager Vincent Del Bosque was humble in both his praise and analysis. “Ultimately this is about the preparation of the team. I think we advanced today. I think we need to get better. It’s all about the next game, against Ireland and to prepare for our first game in the Confederations Cup. Today we realized that the differences in soccer aren’t that big especially when a team gives 100 per cent effort.”