Fernando Torres bagged a brace to put Spain top of Group C with a 4-0 victory and sent Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland out of Euro 2012.
The Irish needed to avoid defeat in order to keep their hopes of qualification alive, but Italy were also counting on him to help their cause in Group C. Spain introduced Torres for Cesc Fabregas after the no-striker system earned a 1-1 draw with the Azzurri.
In the opening minute Simon Cox tested Iker Casillas from distance, but it was Torres who immediately made up for his many errors against Italy by putting Spain in front.
Richard Dunne tackled David Silva, but Torres pounced on the loose ball and blasted it under the bar at the near post. Just as in the 3-1 defeat to Croatia, Ireland were stunned in the opening minutes.
An Andre Iniesta screamer stung Shay Given’s gloves and Gerard Pique turned a free header well wide from a corner.
Torres went clear when springing the offside trap on a through ball, but chipped it straight into the arms of Given.
The Irish goalkeeper parried from Alvaro Arbeloa with his legs and Dunne blocked the Xavi Hernandez follow-up before half-time. From the corner, Given punched to the edge of the box for the Xabi Alonso volley wide.
Robbie Keane also had a scoring opportunity charged down in the penalty area from a Cox assist. In first half stoppages, Given acrobatically flapped an Iniesta strike out from under the crossbar.
The second half started with a similar pattern, Given beating away the Arbeloa effort, then moments later a poor punch went straight to David Silva from 12 yards, who passed it into the near bottom corner.
Given did much better when at full stretch to deny Xavi’s snapshot, but Aiden McGeady also had an effort charged down following Spain’s defensive error.
Torres put the final nail in the Irish coffin when Silva robbed McGeady in midfield and sent the Chelsea man clear to coolly side-foot past an on-rushing Given.
Fabregas came off the bench and netted his second of the tournament, getting to the by-line and hitting a missile across Given and Keith Andrews into the far top corner. That fourth goal made this Ireland’s heaviest defeat under Trapattoni, but their fans continued to sing right to the end.
Spain 4-0 Ireland
Scorers: Torres 4, 70 (S), Silva 49 (S), Fabregas 83 (S)
Spain: Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Javi Martinez 65); Xavi, Silva, Iniesta (Santi Cazorla 80); Torres (Fabregas 73)
Republic of Ireland: Given; O'Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward; Duff (McClean 76), Andrews, Whelan (Green 80), McGeady, Cox (Walters 46); Keane
Ref: Proenca (Por)