Spain reign in Minsk thanks to Pedro hat-trick

MINSK Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:52am IST

Spain's Pedro celebrates his goal against Belarus during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Minsk October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Spain's Pedro celebrates his goal against Belarus during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Minsk October 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko

MINSK (Reuters) - Pedro set up Jordi Alba for the opening goal before grabbing a hat-trick as Spain extended their winning run in major championship qualifiers to 24 matches with a 4-0 World Cup Group I victory in Belarus on Friday.

The world and European champions produced a typically efficient performance in chilly Minsk, dominating possession and quickly snuffing out any forward forays by the outclassed eastern Europeans.

It was a useful warmup for Tuesday's qualifier with France in Madrid when coach Vicente del Bosque's makeshift defence featuring converted midfielder Sergio Busquets alongside Sergio Ramos will face a much stiffer test.

Spain have six points from two games, level with France but ahead on goal difference.

Georgia, who lost 1-0 to Spain in Tbilisi last month, are third on four points with Finland on one and Belarus on zero.

After Cesc Fabregas and David Silva went close early on, full back Alba opened the scoring in the 12th minute when he raced on to Pedro's flick, rounded goalkeeper Sergei Veremko and drove the ball into the net.

Silva sent Pedro clear to make it 2-0 nine minutes later and the Barcelona forward added his second in the 69th when he sped away from the defence and lifted the ball over the onrushing Veremko.

Fabregas, playing in the roving forward position he occupied at Euro 2012, set up his club mate to complete his treble in the 72nd minute before substitute David Villa, another Barca man, crashed a shot against the crossbar.

Spain last failed to win a World Cup or European Championship qualifier in a 1-1 draw with Iceland in Reykjavik in September 2007 and have now won all 20 under Del Bosque.

They have gone a national record seven competitive games without conceding a goal - Italy were the last team to score against them in a 1-1 draw in the group stage at Euro 2012 in June.

Friday's match was not shown on television in Spain as the country's cash-strapped broadcasters were not prepared to pay the price set by rights holder Sportfive.

It was the first time a Spanish World Cup qualifier had not been shown on national TV, local media reported, and was the latest reminder of how the country is suffering from the economic crisis.

(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid; editing by Tony Jimenez)

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