STUTTGART, Germany -- The substitutes saved the day for Spain, carrying it into the next round of the World Cup.
Trailing Tunisia by a goal at halftime, coach Luis Aragones brought in Spain's all-time leading scorer, Raul Gonzalez, and Cesc Fabregas. And it paid off in a 3-1 win last night.
Raul equalized when Tunisia goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel couldn't hold Fabregas's shot, and Fabregas set up Fernando Torres for Spain's second goal five minutes later. Torres finished it off on a penalty kick in the last minute.
``The way Cesc and Raul interpreted the football we had to deliver was extraordinary. That's why our second half was better than the first," Aragones said after Spain's advancement to the second round.
``We had a lot of opportunities, but we did become a bit nervous after their goal."
Spain, undefeated in 24 games under Aragones, is emerging as a serious candidate for the World Cup title after two straight wins and a goal difference of 7-1. It's the Red Fury's best start to a World Cup.
Aragones fielded the same starting lineup that routed Ukraine, 4-0, in Spain's best World Cup opener. Then Tunisia stunned the Spaniards in the eighth minute when Jawhar Menari scored.
Striker Ziad Jaziri set up the goal after winning a duel with Carlos Puyol, dribbling through three defenders in the box and lifting the ball to Menari. The midfielder's first shot was blocked by Iker Casillas, but Menari put in the rebound.
Spain pushed relentlessly for the equalizer and nearly got it before the halftime whistle, but Tunisia's Anis Ayari stopped Xabi Alonso's header on the goal line with a defensive header.
Fabregas and Raul came on for Marcos Senna and Luis Garcia after the break, and Joaquin Sanchez replaced David Villa 11 minutes into the second half.
The substitutes injected more firepower to Spain's attack, and Tunisia finally caved in after Raul tied the score in the 71st minute.
``There are some days when every thing works for you, and today was one of them," Fabregas said.
Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre said he was disappointed his team couldn't withstand the Spanish pressure. Spain had 24 shots, 10 on goal, against Tunisia's four, three of which were on goal. The Spaniards had 12 corner kicks.
``Just at the moment when Spain started to buckle we dropped our guard," said Lemerre, who took the Tunisia job after being fired as France coach after the 2002 World Cup.
He will have to restore confidence in his squad to have any chance of beating Ukraine to qualify for the second round. Tunisia, in its fourth World Cup, has never advanced from the group stage.
``The decisive game will be against Ukraine and we will have to do a better job to make it to the last 16," Lemerre said.
Boumnijel, who nearly saved Torres's 90th-minute penalty kick, said Spain's patience paid off.
``They wore us down, technically and mentally," he said. ``We have to win the game against Ukraine at all cost."