Reds star inspires Spain

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Spain have one foot in next summer's World Cup finals after a convincing 5-1 win over Slovakia in the first leg of their play-off.

Liverpool's Luis Garcia was the hero for Luis Aragones' side, notching a hat-trick at a rain-drenched Vicente Calderon stadium to all but ensure the Spaniards will take their place in Germany.

Garcia gave the hosts the perfect start, netting after ten and 18 minutes and completed his treble with Spain's fourth after 74 minutes.

His first was a smart back-post header following a corner from Xavi and he doubled the advantage with a cool finish following a superb assist from the Barcelona star.

'La Furia Roja' looked to be cruising having gone in two up at the interval, but were give a shock when Middlesbrough's Szilard Nemeth grabbed what looked to be a vital away goal after 49 minutes after a mistake from Garcia.

However, the game's turning point came after 64 minutes when the hosts were awarded a penalty following a handball by Roman Kratochvil.

Marian Had was shown a second yellow card for his protests at the decision and the numerical disadvantage was to prove crucial.

Atletico Madrid starlet Fernando Torres, playing on his home patch, took the responsibility from the spot and restored the two-goal cushion.

The Slovakians crumbled in the dying stages and all but surrendered the tie as Garcia claimed his third with a near-post finish before Liverpool team-mate Fernando Morientes climbed off the bench to replace him and give the scoreline an emphatic look 11 minutes from time with a trademark header.

Match summary:
Spain 5-1 Slovakia