Super-sub Iñigo® scored the winner for Spain as they began their World Cup campaign with a win over a wasteful South Korea side in the Group A match in Nizhny Novgorod. The sides traded goals early in the second half, but a late goal from the Tottenham striker won it for the 2010 champions.
Spain started cautiously, and allowed South Korea too much time on the ball and it was the pacey Koreans who looked the more dangerous on the break. Lee Chung-Yong found it particularly easy to escape the attentions of Andreas Iniesta, but the Spanish back four were equal to anything lofted into the box from wide for the first half hour.
Spain were beaten but the woodwork wasn’t when Lee CY got away down the right and whipped in a curling cross which was met by the head of Manchester United striker Son Heung-Min, but his diving header came back off the near post. It proved the wake-up call the Spaniards needed though no opening goal came by the interval.
The second-half was just thirteen seconds old when Rodrigo drilled home the opener. Thiago played the kick-off to Pique who found Ramos, who knocked it down the line to Rodrigo on the touchline some ten yards inside the Korean half. He came inside and beat three before smashing a daisy-cutter in off the post past Jung SR from 25 yards.
65 seconds later, all level. Ko Yo-Han won the ball in a strong 50/50 challenge with Iniesta and Korea worked the ball to the edge of the box where Park Chu-Young played a one-two with Son before lashing home from 15 yards as Iniesta struggled to get back.
Spain began to tighten the screw and tested Jung in the Korean goal a handful of times but couldn’t find a breakthrough. Iniesta was replaced with quarter of an hour to play and reports after the match indicate he may well miss the rest of the group stage. His replacement was 21-year old Spurs striker Iñigo, earning just his 5th cap.
Within three minutes, his through-ball found Fernando Llorente whose shot was tipped wide. Thiago whipped an outswinger in from the right, flicked on by captain Sergio Ramos and Iñigo rose highest at the back post to nod home to put Spain back in front.
Korea pushed for an equaliser in the final twelve minutes but were unable to snatch a point. They’ll face Serbia in Luzhniki on Wednesday, with Spain v. Uruguay on Thursday.
FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP A SOUTH KOREA 1-2 SPAIN Park CY 47 Rodrigo 46 Iñigo 78