CAPE TOWN, South Africa, June 29 (Xinhua) -- David Villa's deadlock breaking goal sent European champions Spain into 2010 World Cup quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory over Portugal in an eye-catching game here on Tuesday.
In the 63rd minute, a trademark Spanish passing move found Andres Iniesta in the center. He flicked the ball through to Xavi Hernandez, who backheeled to Villa charging in on the left.
The Barcelona-bound striker saw his first shot blocked by Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo, but on the rebound, he coolly slotted home with his right foot.
"We're taking it step by step. We've left a very difficult rival behind," said Villa.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said: "We know we're working well, and we felt comfortable but you have to be careful because things can change quickly."
Defender Sergio Ramos almost made it 2-0 in the 69th minute when he finally managed to twist his way inside Fabio Coentrao and fired a low powerful shot. Only an excellent save from Eduardo denied Spain.
Fernando Llorente, the towering forward coming off the bench in the second half, wasted another golden opportunity in the 86th minute when Villa floated a glorious ball beyond the defence, but Llorente headed the ball a bit wide.
Llorente should have scored with his first touch in the 60th minute when Ramos gave a splendid cross from deep, but Llorente's diving header hit straight at Eduardo.
Portuguese defender Ricardo Costa was sent off in the 89th minute for a stray arm which connected with Spain's defender Joan Capdevila.
"Spain had the better chances and I think, sadly, they deserved to win," said Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz.
Both sides played openly and showcased a high-quality football game. Despite the lucky goal, Spain did not show their amazing strength in the midfield, which escorted them to the European top podium in 2008. They still have room to improve.
Only six minutes into the game, in-form Spain produced three shots on target. Eduardo denied all of them and made his team survive at the halftime with a string of brilliant saves.
Keeper Iker Casillas captained Spain for the 51st time tonight, setting a new Spanish record ahead of Andoni Zubizaretta.
Casillas made an interesting save in the 19th minute when Portuguese defender Fabio Coentrao fed midfielder Tiago who hit a decent effort from 20 yards. The Real Madrid keeper palmed the ball rather than away, and had to palm it again at the goalmouth.
Portuguese star winger Cristiano Ronaldo, the most expensive player in the world and the skipper tonight, played all out to break the Spain's defense but he was marked so tightly, often being tackled down in the midfield, and did not pose any real threat.
In the quarterfinals, Spain will face Paraguay who edged Japan 4-2 through penalty shootout the same day.
- Spain beat Portugal 1-0 2010-06-30
- Villa may face FIFA investigation for Izaguirre slap 2010-06-23
- Villa refused to take pressure as excuse for penalty miss 2010-06-22