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FOOTBALL

Spain fight back to defeat Tunisia

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Raul's fires home from close range to draw Spain level against Tunisia.

SPECIAL REPORT

STUTTGART, Germany -- Late strikes from Raul and a Fernando Torres double saw Spain come from behind to claim a dramatic 3-1 Group H win over Tunisia that clinched a place in the knockout stages.

Tunisia looked on course for a shock win over the much-fancied Spaniards when Joahar Mnari steered home at the second attempt after striker Ziad Jaziri had teased his way past three Spain defenders.

The 2004 African champions looked as though they might keep Spain at bay as their defence deflected wave after wave of attacks in the second half.

But Raul and fellow-substitute Cesc Fabregas turned the course of the match.

Raul pounced on the rebound after Fabregas' low shot from the edge of the area was parried by keeper Ali Bomunijel to level the scores 19 minutes from time.

Five minutes later Fabregas fed a great through ball to the feet of Fernando Torres who rounded Boumnijel and steered the ball into the empty net.

Torres then grabbed his second goal from the penalty spot, and became top scorer at the tournament with three goals, when he fired home in the first minute of stoppage time.

"It was harder than we expected but it is important to win any way you can," said Torres. "Today the team showed spirit and did not get downhearted when they were behind. As long as the strikers keep scoring we will progress in this tournament."

The striker, who had himself been fouled in the area by substitute Alaeddine Yahia, saw his spot kick hit Boumnijel but the Tunisia keeper could not keep it out.

The win leaves Spain top of the group with six points ahead of Ukraine on three after their 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the Saudis have one point.

Spain next play Saudi Arabia while Ukraine take on Tunisia in the battle for the runners-up spot in the group.

Spain had been quick off the mark, with striker David Villa going close after five minutes when he fired a rasping shot into the side netting.

But Mnari stunned them with his early goal and although Spain enjoyed more of the possession they were unable to unlock the Tunisian defence in the first half.

Casillas had to react sharply to stop Jaziri sneaking in for a second while defender Hatem Trabelsi proved to be a real handful with his rampaging runs down the right.

Trabelsi and the towering Radhi Jaidi did a great job of shackling Spain's attack, but they were thankful to left back Anis Ayari for clearing a Xabi Alonso header off the line on the stroke of halftime.

Aragones rang the changes at halftime and brought on captain Raul in place of Luis Garcia and Cesc Fabregas instead of Marcos Senna and his substitutes provided the impetus that eventually allowed Spain to break down the Tunisian resistance.

"I am very disappointed, for the team and for Tunisia, because we had good tactics but it all crumbled because of a single mistake," said Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre, referring to Raul's equaliser.

"All is not lost but we didn't win anything here either. The Ukraine game (on June 23) will be decisive, the route will be difficult, but we still have hope."

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