Bitter sweet draw for man of the match Iniesta
Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta (R) vies with Italian midfielder Thiago Motta
AFP – Christof Stache
Andres Iniesta said he had bitter-sweet feelings after winning the man-of-the-match award following a 1-1 draw with Italy in their European Championship Group C opener here on Sunday.
The Barcelona star had a hand in Cesc Fabregas’s equalising goal and was then named by former Portugal midfielder Maniche as the top performer.
Yet it was the lack of a victory that most concerned Iniesta.
“It’s a bitter-sweet feeling having drawn as we would have liked to come out with a win,” he said.
“It was an intense game against a strong team with quality players who are one of the favourites.
“We played well and I’m confdent we will do well in the next two games.
“Independently of our opponents we need to worry about our own form.
“We had chances but we missed them ourselves and now we will come up against a different rival (Republic of Ireland).
“The key is how we feel but I’m confident we’ll play a great match.”
Coach Vicente Del Bosque sprung a surprise before kick-off by selecting midfielder Fabregas up front instead of a recognised striker.
Although Fabregas scored after Antonio Di Natale’s opener, Spain’s best moments came after their goalscorer had been replaced with Chelsea striker Fernando Torres.
Yet Del Bosque had no regrets about his team selection.
“He (Fabregas) is a very special player who can get forward and allows us to dominate the middle of the pitch,” said Del Bosque.
“We wanted the security of having the ball against a rival who put us under pressure and stretched us.
“In the second half we took control, we wanted to win of course but our determination wasn’t enough.”
De Bosque paid tribute to Italy’s performance and said their attacking ambition had ensured it was a good game.
“It was a very good match because Italy played very well,” he said.
“We knew they would play well, they’ve got great forwards and our defence had to work hard.
“It was dangerous for (our defence), they (Italy) were also very courageous and that’s why it was a draw.”
When Torres came on he had a pair of gilt-edged chances as errors crept into Italy’s play but the first, a one-on-one with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, he overran and the second he picked the wrong option.
Yet Del Bosque said he was happy with Torres’s play.
“It was the ideal moment to put him on because it was an open match and that’s suited to his style of play,” said Del Bosque.
“He created chances and he enjoyed it. I know that these matches are balanced and these teams are very balanced so it was great for us to put Torres on.”
However, the former Real Madrid coach was unhappy with the state of the pitch at the Arena Gdansk, complaining that it was too dry and slowed the pace of his team’s passing.
“Of course we prefer to win but we tried, we worked very hard, it was a great match,” he said.
“The important thing is not whether or not we’re happy but rather that we play good football.
“The conditions with such a dry pitch were very difficult and that’s not good for either team, but it was a great match and if it was faster it would have been even better.”