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Spain tops Ireland in soccer friendly at Yankee Stadium

NEW YORK -- Yankee Stadium is no stranger to hosting champions. Twenty-seven World Series-winning Yankees teams have called the Bronx their home over the past 80 years, more than any other American sports franchise.

On Tuesday, though, the Yankees' ballpark played host to an entirely different kind of champion, as 2010 World Cup winner Spain took on the Republic of Ireland in an international friendly.

The infield dirt was covered with sod, the pitcher's mound was flat and the Yankees were in Oakland, but many in Yankee Stadium has reason to celebrate. Sparked by two second-half goals, Spain defeated Ireland, 2-0, in front of a crowd of 39,368.

It wasn't the outcome Ireland was looking for, but Giovanni Trappattoni will take it. The Irish manager saw his team keep up with a Spain team that's ranked No. 1 in the world, and they did it on a big -- albeit friendly -- stage.

"It was fantastic this time," Trappattoni said. "Our support, the Spanish support; the atmosphere was fantastic."

This wasn't Trappattoni's first experience in the Bronx, though. He has made a series of trips to the United States through his playing and coaching career, and Tuesday wasn't the first time he had led a team into Yankee Stadium.

He said he's enjoyed playing and managing around the country, but New York and Yankee Stadium are particularly special.

"Yankee Stadium," Trappattoni said. "It's a legend."

The Irish supporters -- and their Spanish counterparts -- in the stands sounded like they agreed. The green-clad fans could be heard breaking out into songs about "The boys in green," and the contingent of Spanish fans continually chanted, "Ole."

It was a raucous atmosphere. When either team had a scoring chance, it was as loud as it would have been if Mark Teixeira had just hit a go-ahead home run. And when Spain netted its two goals in the second half, the stadium took on a postseason atmosphere.

And even in a loss, the Irish faithful found reason to celebrate. As the final minutes ticked off the clock, a section of Ireland fans in the upper deck in right field removed their shirts and waved them over their heads as they jumped and chanted.

"The crowds have been very good. They've been very affectionate toward the team," Spanish manager Vincente Del Bosque said through a translator. "The Irish fans -- overall, I'm very pleased."

He was pleased with the way his team played, too. After both teams narrowly missed on scoring opportunities in the first half, Spain capitalized in the second. Roberto Soldado came off the bench to put the game's first goal on the board in the 69th minute, taking a pass from Alvaro Arbeloa and sneaking it past Irish goalkeeper David Forde into the goal near the left field wall.

Ireland's Sean St. Ledger seemed to net the equalizer in the 81st minute, but the goal was disallowed. Seven minutes later, Spain's Juan Mata netted the team's second goal, giving his team its final 2-0 margin.

"We achieved what we came to do," Del Bosque said. "I think it's been a good preparation, I think physically we've gotten better, and overall I think we're better than when we came."

Tuesday night's game was the fourth soccer game in the new Yankee Stadium and the second this year. Manchester City defeated Chelsea, 5-3, in front of 39,462 fans on May 25.

Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for
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