A powerful fourth-minute strike by Fernando Torres gave defending champions Spain a 1-0 lead over Ireland at halftime in their Euro 2012 Group C match on Thursday.

Torres punished the Irish defenders who tackled David Silva on the edge of the box but failed to clear quickly, slipping in to snatch the ball and fire high into the net for his first tournament goal since scoring the winner at the Euro 2008 final.

As expected, world and European champions Spain dominated possession with Ireland struggling to keep up with the dizzying pace.

Croatia came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Italy earlier on Thursday and take the lead in the group with four points.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)