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Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Spain see off Slovenia
Spain striker Raul celebrates scoring
Raul celebrates his 26th goal for Spain
Spain 3-1 Slovenia

Spain made hard work of their opening group game against minnows Slovenia, but showed flashes of inspiration that could serve them well later in the competition.

Raul scored a trademark goal just before half-time and Juan Carlos Valeron doubled the Spaniards' advantage with an excellent finish midway through the second half.

Slovenia then staged a mini-comeback when Sebastjan Cimirotic pulled one back late on in the game to set up a nervy finish. But Fernando Hierro settled matters in the 88th minute - scoring from the penalty spot - to give Spain their first-ever opening game victory at the World Cup.

MATCH FACTS
3 mins: Knavs forces a great save from Casillas
44: Raul fires Spain ahead
74: Valeron applies a superb finish to a sweeping move
82: Cimirotic pulls one back for Slovenia
88: Hierro restores two-goal advantage from penalty spot

Slovenia actually began brightly, and threatened to take a surprise lead in the third minute.

Playmaker Zlatko Zahovic whipped in an excellent near-post corner and Aleksander Knavs' close-range header almost found its way through, but Iker Casillas was alert to the danger and saved well.

The World Cup's greatest over-achievers were by no means overawed by the competition's under-achievers and initially proved more than a match - physically if not technically.

GRAPHIC ANALYSIS

Given the nature of Srecko Katanec's game-plan, the Slovenes defended in numbers and looked to the pace of Mladen Rudonja on the left to launch their attacks.

For Spain, Javier De Pedro and Valeron bossed the midfield, winning free-kicks at will.

De Pedro went close twice in quick succession, using the new light-weight ball to his advantage.

Slovenia probed, but ultimately could not penetrate the Spaniards, who had begun to exert their authority on proceedings.

Slovenia playmaker Zlatko Zahovic tangles with Spain's Juanfran
Zahovic failed to make an impact

It came as no surprise when Spain opened the scoring and the source of the goal was even less of a shock.

Raul became the joint second-highest goalscorer in Spain's history on 26 goals with a strike that highlighted his predatory instincts.

Excellent work by Luis Enrique, plus a couple of ricochets, saw the ball go to Raul in the area and, with a deft shift in direction, the Spain striker fired in the opener.

After the break, Katanec's introduced Cimirotic for the ineffective Milan Osterc.

And the Slovene striker's first notable act was to get booked for a deliberate dive. But he also added some much-needed spark into a flagging side and struck a couple of venomous shots.

Open Quote
I thought we played well - if we keep on like this we'll be fine
Close Quote
Spain coach Jose Antonio Camacho

However, Spain extended their advantage with a superbly-worked move that saw De Pedro produce the cross of the tournament so far to find Valeron unmarked in the area and he converted with clinical precision.

But Jose Camacho's side were forced to hang on towards the end, when Cimirotic reduced the deficit to just one, applying a good finish after a one-two with substitute Milenko Acimovic.

Hierro then sealed the points with a late penalty - won rather dubiously by substitute Fernando Morientes - and consolidated his position as Spain's top scorer with 28 goals.



Spain: Casillas, Juanfran (Romero 83), Puyol, Hierro, Nadal, Baraja, Luis Enrique (Helguera 74), De Pedro, Valeron, Raul, Tristan (Morientes 67).
Subs Not Used: Albelda, Contreras, Curro Torres, Joaquin, Luque, Mendieta, Ricardo, Sergio, Xavi.
Booked: Valeron.
Goals: Raul 44, Valeron 74, Hierro 88 pen.

Slovenia: Simeunovic, Milinovic, Galic, Knavs, Novak (Gajser 77), Ales Ceh, Karic, Zahovic (Acimovic 63), Pavlin, Osterc (Cimirotic 57), Rudonja.
Subs Not Used: Bulajic, Nastja Ceh, Dabanovic, Nemec, Pavlovic, Sankovic, Tavcar, Tiganj, Vugdalic.
Booked: Karic, Cimirotic.
Goal: Cimirotic 82.

Attendance: 40,000

Referee: M Guezzaz (Morocco).


MATCH STATS
  Spain Slovenia
Corners (1st half) 3 4
Corners (2nd half) 2 1
Fouls committed 15 15
Caught offside 1 1
Shots on target 8 4
Shots off target 6 3
Hit woodwork (back into play) 0 0
Yellow cards 1 2
Red cards 0 0
STOPPAGE TIME
First half - 1 mins Second half - 4 mins


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