Spain late-show sinks Greece

Guiza's header denies outgoing champions a point

Spain's second string left it late as they made hard work of beating outgoing champions Greece 2-1 in their final Group D game.

Luis Aragones made a host of changes from their 2-1 win over Sweden, but only Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas did anything to suggest they will be in the shake-up for selection in the quarter-final meeting with Italy on Sunday.

Greece scored their first goal of the tournament to take the lead in the 42nd minute as Angelos Charisteas' thumping header from Giorgios Karagounis' free-kick brought memories of their Euro 2004 triumph flooding back.

But a blistering strike from Ruben de la Red brought Spain back on level terms in the 61st minute as he drilled home an unstoppable effort from 12 yards after David Guiza's knock-down from a clever ball forward.

And with time running out Guiza was left unmarked to head Sergio Garcia's cross beyond Antonis Nikopolidis, named Greece captain for the night as he brought the curtain down on his illustrious international career.

Alonso went close with an audacious shot from inside his own half in the first period, before striking the inside of the post with a 35-yard screamer in the second.

Inches wide

With Fabregas heavily involved, Spain looked the more dangerous of the two sides in the opening stages, but after a few nervous early moments the Greece defence coped fairly comfortably with the group winners' attacks.

The closest either side came to a goal in the opening 30 minutes was through a spectacular effort from inside the centre circle by Spain's stand-in captain Alonso.

The midfielder has famously scored from inside his own half for Liverpool and he almost repeated the feat here, his effort going inches wide of the top corner with the backpedalling Nikopolidis badly struggling before colliding painfully with the woodwork.

Alonso's long-range shooting was looking Spain's best threat at that stage, with the 26-year-old curling another couple of efforts just wide of Nikopolidis' left-hand post.

Greece's attacking threat was limited mainly to dead-ball situations in the first half, and it appeared as though there was going to be little to worry Jose Reina in the Spanish goal as the match drifted towards half-time.

However, that was all to change in the 42nd minute when Greece took the lead against the run of play through Charisteas.

The goal stemmed from a free-kick out on the left touchline, which was curled into the box by Karagounis and Charisteas escaped his marker to send a thumping header past Reina.

Spain could not claim to be unaware of the danger posed by Charisteas though, as the big centre-forward also scored the goal when the two nations drew 1-1 during the group of stages of Euro 2004.

Big guns

Aragones opted against bringing any of his big guns on at the break, and he was almost rewarded for his continued faith in his fringe players when Alonso came close to equalising in the 54th minute.

Once again showing his prowess from distance, the skipper unleashed a 35-yard thunderbolt which crashed against the inside of the post before flying across the face of the goal.

Spain did not have to wait much longer to get back on level terms though, with De la Red blasting home his side's leveller from 12 yards out.

A chip into the area was nodded back by Guiza and De la Red was on hand to send an unstoppable shot past Nikopolidis, who got his hand to the ball but could do nothing to keep it out.

Spain's joy very nearly turned to despair three minutes later however as Charisteas broke into the area and skipped past Reina, but he could only hit the outside of the post from a tight angle.

After Guiza, De la Red and Garcia failed to make the most of decent openings, Guiza - La Liga's leading scorer last season - got it right.

With just two minutes remaining he got on the end of Garcia's far-post cross to thump a header past Nikopolidis, giving Spain their second successive last-gasp win following their 2-1 triumph over Sweden.