European champions Spain stunned by Swiss in Group H

Durban, June 16 (DPA) World Cup favourites Spain were beaten 0-1 by Switzerland at the Durban Stadium Wednesday.

Vicente Del Bosque’s side dominated the first half of the Group H encounter without scoring and were stunned when the Swiss grabbed a second half winner.

Saint Etienne striker Gelson Fernandes shot into an empty net on 52 minutes after first Iker Casillas and then Gerard Pique failed to clear an effort from Eren Derdiyok.

The Spanish had only lost once since winning the European Championship two years ago but could find no way past a resilient Swiss defence, who have now not conceded in five World Cup matches.

Spain had Andres Iniesta fit to start but left both Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres on the bench.

Switzerland did not concede a single goal four years ago in Germany, going out on penalties to Ukraine, and they had striker Alexander Frei on the bench and Blaise NKufo in his place as the lone striker.

Spain had plenty of early possession but did not create a clear cut opening until the 17th minute when David Silva broke down the left but shot straight at Diego Benaglio.

Sergio Ramos then blasted an effort wide as with nine men behind the ball, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team continued to frustrate their opponents.

On 25 minutes Spain should have taken the lead when central defender Gerard Pique ran on to a pass from Iniesta inside the Swiss penalty area. He turned inside his marker but saw his shot saved by the legs of Benaglio.

Iker Casillas was then called into action at the other end when he had to save from Reto Ziegler but Spain were soon back attacking and Stephane Grichting was booked for hauling Iniesta down on the edge of the box.

David Villa fired the free-kick into the wall and the resulting corner came to nothing. The Swiss were keeping the European Champions at bay but lost central defender Philippe Senderos on 36 minutes.

The Everton defender, whose father is Spanish, had bizarrely injured himself tackling his own team-mate and had to be replaced by Steve von Bergen.

With two minutes left of the first half, Iniesta shot over from distance and then Villa found space on the left but crossed to the back post, where the Swiss cleared easily.

Spain’s pressure continued in the second half when they immediately won a corner but when the kick dropped to Xabi Alonso, he shot over.

Then things went horribly wrong for Spain on 52 minutes when Eren Derdiyok got to a long ball over the top before Spain keeper Casillas.

The loose ball looped up towards goal and with Pique grounded inside the six-yard box and unable to make the clearance, Fernandes arrived to finish into an empty net.

On 62 minutes, Liverpool striker Fernando Torres and Jesus Navas replaced David Silva and Sergio Busquets. Torres immediately threatened down the right and when the ball ran to Xavi, he shot just wide.

Torres then combined with Villa on the edge of the box on 68 minutes but his shot on the turn cleared Benaglio’s bar, giving the Swiss keeper no problem.

On 70 minutes Alonso rattled the crossbar with a shot from a Xavi corner and then Navas cut in from the right but under pressure from Grchting shot straight at Benaglio.

The Swiss then should have doubled their lead when Eren Derdiyok wriggled past first Pique and then Carles Puyol before hitting the post with Casillas beaten.

Spain lost Iniesta injured and Barcelona winger Pedro came on as Del Bosque played his last card but there was no way past the stubborn Swiss.

They now face joint group leaders Chile on Monday with Spain up against Honduras.