Jennifer Hermoso scored two penalties as Spain came from behind to beat World Cup debutants South Africa, who were reduced to 10 players.
Atletico Madrid’s Hermoso converted both spot-kicks in the second half, awarded after a handball and Nothando Vilakazi’s late challenge, for which she received a second yellow card.
Spain were the better side and Lucia Garcia added a cool third late on.
Thembi Kgatlana had given South Africa a shock lead with a chipped finish.
Kgatlana should have put South Africa 2-0 ahead but her tame effort at the far post was pushed away by Spain goalkeeper Sandra Panos.
The result means they are now without a victory in any of their last 12 games and are bottom of Group B.
Spain are top courtesy of better goal difference than two-time winners Germany, who edged past China 1-0 in their opening game.
Jorge Vilda’s side claimed their first victory at the tournament, having failed to win any of their games at the 2015 event, but it did not go to plan early on after Kgatlana’s surprise strike in the first half.
The Spaniards regathered themselves in the second period, Garcia looping a shot against the crossbar, Maria Leon curling a free-kick narrowly over and Marta Corredera seeing a scooped shot pushed away by Andile Dlamini.
But Hermoso did manage to keep her cool from the penalty spot, before Garcia went round Dlamini to slot in with a minute remaining.
Hermoso spot on – the stats
- Jennifer Hermoso is the first player to score twice from the penalty spot in a Women’s World Cup match.
- Spain’s three goals were the first they have ever scored in the second half of a World Cup match.
- South Africa’s Nothando Vilakazi received the first red card of the tournament.
- South Africa failed to manage any attempt on or off target after the 57th minute.
- Thembi Kgatlana put South Africa ahead with their first attempt on target at a World Cup.
- Spain had the most attempts (25) and most on target (12) of any side in the opening 3 games of this World Cup and their possession of 72% was also the highest.
- Cameroon remain the only African side to have won their debut game at the World Cup, that win at the 2015 tournament.