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Putellas cameo as Spain cruises in ominous World Cup display

<a class=Spain‘s midfielder Alexia Putellas with the ball in Wellington (Marty Melville)” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/″ data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/″/>

Coach Jorge Vilda says Spain will try to get the best out of Alexia Putellas at the Women’s World Cup after she made a cameo off the bench in Friday’s ominous 3-0 win over Costa Rica.

The Spaniards showed why they’re among the favorites with a classy display in a Group C mismatch in Wellington, firing 46 shots against opponents who spent almost the entire game defending and were flattered by the scoreline.

La Roja threatened a rout when all three goals came in the space of six minutes midway through the first half but they couldn’t score again.

The European powerhouses received a boost in the 77th minute when reigning two-time Ballon d’Or winner Putellas entered the match, with her fitness under a cloud after cutting short a training session on Monday.

The Barcelona midfielder produced some neat touches over the closing minutes and Vilda said her limited minutes came under advice from the medical staff.

The 29-year-old has yet to complete a full game since returning in April from a serious knee injury.

“We are going to follow their recommendations and they recommended for today that Alexia could play a little bit,” Vilda said.

“Every single minute from her really counts, she’s a really good quality player.

“What we’re going to do in the future is our best to help her and get the best out of her.”

– ‘Extraordinary’ –

Putellas’ Barcelona team-mate Aitana Bonmati was instead the game’s dominant figure, named player of the match after creating numerous chances and finding the net herself.

Bonmati was among a group of 15 who made themselves unavailable for selection in a player revolt against Vilda that rocked Spain’s World Cup preparations.

She and two others ended a nine-month exile to play at the World Cup.

Vilda said he didn’t want to “look backwards” when asked if the issue was still creating tension. The atmosphere around the Spain camp and Vilda’s strict personality were among several concerns of the boycotting players.

“We’ve come to the World Cup with a lot of hope. We wanted to get a really fresh and good start,” he said.

“I think we don’t have to look backwards, we need to look ahead. Our present was the match that we played today and I think we were very satisfied with that.”

In a match played in cold and wet conditions, the first goal arrived in the 21st minute when Costa Rica defender Valeria del Campo sliced ​​a low cross from Esther Gonzalez into her own net.

Bonmati doubled the lead before Gonzalez grabbed the third with a close-range volley.

It should have been four soon afterwards but Jennifer Hermoso was denied from the penalty spot by goalkeeper Daniela Solera, who was a critical figure in keeping the scoreline down.

Solera made nine saves, including a host of fingertip efforts in the second half, in a performance described by Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde as “extraordinary”.

Spain’s frustration grew towards the end and they lost some fluidity, but Vilda played down any concerns at their wastefulness.

“Our team was dominating but we obviously had more opportunities than we actually took advantage of.

“We’re going to use all this time to train and prepare better.”

Costa Rica are still searching for a first World Cup win, having failed to advance from the group phase in their lone appearance eight years ago, when their opening match was a 1-1 draw with Spain.

The teams share the same group as Japan and Zambia, who meet on Saturday.