Fernando Torres dumped the Republic of Ireland out of Euro 2012 as defending champions Spain eased into top gear.
The 28-year-old striker, left out of the starting line-up for the Group C opener against Italy, returned with a vengeance to spearhead an impressive display by the Spaniards.
Torres fired them ahead after just four minutes and then, after David Silva had mesmerised the Irish defence to make it 2-0 four minutes after the restart, helped himself to a second to complete a good night’s work.
It proved a chastening experience for the Republic, who conceded a fourth late on when substitute Cesc Fabregas collected his second goal of the tournament, as their worst fears were realised.
Spain will head into Monday night’s showdown with Croatia with top spot in the group at stake, while Giovanni Trapattoni’s men will have only pride to play for when they face Italy, who need to win to progress, in Poznan.
Ireland had gone four games unbeaten before they arrived in Poland, but have tasted comprehensive defeat in both the fixtures they have played in their first trip to major finals in a decade.
The sound of Europe’s The Final Countdown thundering from the stadium’s PA system before kick-off seemed prophetic, and as Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca brought an end to the opening 45 minutes, the Republic’s hopes of extending their stay in Poland and Ukraine were hanging by a thread.
Torres needed just four minutes to make his mark.
Silva’s fleet-footed burst into the penalty area prompted Richard Dunne to make a desperate and successful sliding challenge, but the ball dropped nicely for Torres to round full-back Stephen Ward and smash a right-foot shot from a tight angle high past goalkeeper Shay Given and into the roof of the net.
Given had already repelled another effort from Arbeloa, when the his attempt to keep out Iniesta’s powerfully-struck shot dropped to the feet of Silva.
Further damage was inflicted with 20 minutes remaining when Torres once again ran clear of a static defence to fire expertly past Given and finally kill off hopes of a fightback.
And Ireland’s woes increased seven minutes from time when Fabregas blasted home a fourth as Trapattoni’s men slept at a corner.