Last-gasp Iniesta fires Spain to glory


Andres Iniesta's late extra-time goal proved decisive as Spain became world champions for the first time after securing a 1-0 victory in an ill-tempered encounter against the Netherlands.

Spain deserved to add the World Cup to the Euro 2008 title they picked up two years ago as they created the better chances in an at times tetchy final.

No fewer than 13 players were booked, eight of them Dutch, while Johnny Heitinga was sent off in extra time.

Spain boss Vicente del Bosque opted to start with Pedro rather than Fernando Torres in attack in an unchanged starting line-up from the semi-final victory against Germany.

The Dutch, who had won every game in South Africa before the final and also had a 100 per cent record in qualifying for the tournament, made two changes to the side that started the semi-final win against Uruguay as Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong returned from suspension to replace Khalid Boulahrouz and Demy De Zeeuw.

The clearest chance of a dire first half fell to Spain in the sixth minute when Maarten Stekelenburg was forced to make a smart stop to keep Sergio Ramos' fine header out.

The Dutch worked hard to stop Spain getting in to their close passing stride and it worked for the rest of the first period as the favourites failed to create any more clear openings.

Five yellow cards in 13 minutes midway through the first half stopped the flow of the game while Nigel de Jong was fortunate not to see red after catching Xabi Alonso in the chest with his studs.

Holland's main tactic appeared to be to get the ball to Arjen Robben and then see what the Bayern Munich winger could do and it almost paid off in first-half stoppage time when his low drive forced Iker Casillas to make a fine stop at his near post.

The match improved in the second half and, after chances were missed at both ends, the Netherland should have taken the lead just after the hour mark when Wesley Sneijder's pass cut the Spanish defence to shreds.

Robben ran on to the ball and waited for Casillas to commit himself before shooting goalwards. Unfortunately for Robben, the ball hit the goalkeeper on the foot as he went the wrong way and was diverted away for a corner.

In the 69th minute David Villa seemed certain to score when Heitinga missed a cross. The Barcelona man forced the ball goalwards but van der Wiel somehow managed to clear it off the line.

Spain created an even clearer opening nine minutes later when Xavi's corner found Ramos who was completely unmarked ten yards out but he somehow headed the ball over the bar.

In the 83rd minute Robben outpaced Carles Puyol and ran clear but once again Casillas denied the Bayern star.

In extra time substitute Cesc Fabregas saw his shot saved by Stekelenburg's legs while the unmarked Joris Mathijsen wasted a good chance for the Dutch.

In the 109th minute Heitinga was sent off for hauling Iniesta back after Xavi had played the ball forward but it was Iniesta who had the final say.

Fabregas set up the inspirational Barcelona side who thumped the ball home with only four minutes left to deservedly hand the trophy to Spain for the first time.

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Article title: Last-gasp Iniesta fires Spain to glory

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