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Soldado rescues Spain in World Cup qualifier

Spain's players celebrate a goal during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Georgia at Boris Paichadze Stadium in Tbilisi September 11, 2012.

DAVID MDZINARISHVILI/REUTERS

Roberto Soldado snatched a late winner as Spain began the defence of their world title with a 1-0 victory away to an ultra-defensive Georgia in a Group I qualifier on Tuesday.

Handed a rare start ahead of Fernando Torres and David Villa, Soldado fluffed one chance in the first half in Tbilisi but made no mistake from close range when set up by substitute Cesc Fabregas in the 86th minute.

It was cruel on the home side, who had held out stubbornly against their illustrious visitors despite seeing precious little of the ball and losing goalkeeper Giorgi Loria to injury with around 20 minutes left.

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Spain coach Vicente del Bosque threw on Pedro, Santi Cazorla and Fabregas in search of a breakthrough and it was Fabregas who finally unlocked the Georgia defence with a low cross that Soldado turned past substitute keeper Roin Kvaskhvadze.

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