The Republic of Ireland sprung a surprise to defeat Italy 2-0 in an international friendly on Tuesday, while Spain beat Venezuela 3-0.Coached by veteran Italian Giovanni Trapattoni, Ireland helped their manager get one over his countrymen on neutral territory in Belgium.
Italy controlled possession at the Stade de Sclessin, but it was the less fancied side, playing largely with a second-string line-up, who did the damage where it counted in Liege.
Inter Milan striker Giampaolo Pazzini and Palermo’s Antonio Nocerino both missed half-chances for Italy, while Reading’s Shane Long and Wolves forward Andy Keogh caused problems at the other end.
It was Keith Andrews who broke the deadlock on 36 minutes – the Blackburn Rovers winger struck truly from Stephen Hunt’s short free-kick to beat Bologna goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano.
Italy had chances to level, with Alessandro Matri, on as a substitute, shooting across the Ireland goal in the 54th minute.
And a free kick from Sebastian Giovinco only narrowly cleared the crossbar four minutes from time.
But no equaliser was forthcoming and Simon Cox would seal an impressive victory for Ireland just before fulltime, with the West Bromwich Albion striker getting on the end of Hunt’s cross to make it 2-0.
Also on Tuesday, World Cup winners Spain ran out 3-0 winners over Venezuela in Puerto La Cruz.
The star-studded visitors took the lead just five minutes into the match at Estadio Jose Antonio Anzoategui, when Gimnasia La Plata midfielder Cesar Gonzalez fouled Fernando Llorente.
The resulting free-kick from Barcelona forward David Villa cannoned off the post and struck Venezuela goalkeeper Renny Vega before finding the net.
Villa turned provider for the second, setting up club teammate Pedro to score with a shot that came off the boot of Venezuela defender Franklin Lucena.
Gonzalez, Giancarlo Maldonado and Yohandry Orozco all had chances for the hosts, who fared better than the scoreline suggests.
But they were to come unstuck again a minute into first-half injury time, when Athletic Bilbao’s centre-forward Llorente was fouled again and Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso scored from the subsequent free-kick.
Venezuela refused to submit, with Juan Arango – an impressive second-half substitute – and Gabriel Cichero both going close.
Ultimately, Spain would see out the match to win 3-0, with Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes keeping a clean sheet on the rarest of international appearances.
In other matches, a goal from Fluminense striker Fred handed Brazil a 1-0 win in their friendly at home to Romania.
Greece drew 1-1 in their match away to Ecuador, with a second-half equaliser from Nacional’s Fricson Erazo cancelling out the opener of Racing Santander midfielder Alexandros Tziolis.
Finally, Paraguay drew 0-0 at home to Bolivia.