SPAIN SNATCH DRAW FROM ON-TOP ENGLAND
Interim-manager Gareth Southgate was taught that bringing solidarity and consistency to the England team is no easy task, as Spain stole a draw at Wembley with just five seconds left of stoppage-time. Jamie Vardy’s first goal in fifteen games for club and country put England into a rich 2-0 lead, but the inevitable sweep of substitutions disrupted the hosts’ rhythm, and Julien Lopetegui’s side pulled it back to 2-2.
Interim manager Gareth Southgate, in his final match of his temporary role, made three changes to the team that beat Scotland so convincingly on Friday. With forwards Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney departing the squad with niggling injuries, Jamie Vardy replaced Daniel Sturridge up-front. Jesse Lingard came in for Manchester United teammate Rooney, and Nathaniel Clyne replaced Kyle Walker at right-back. Spain started the Premier League trio of David Silva, Juan Mata and Nacho Monreal, with Napoli, and former Liverpool, goalkeeper Pepe Reina given a surprise berth.
Spain began the match with their expected sweep of possession dominance. England pressed well, and Jesse Lingard won the ball. The United winger found Adam Lallana on the right wing. Doing things fast, early, and at pace seems to be the best thing for England, and Lallana certainly bought into this idea. The Liverpool man whipped the ball into the box immediately. It ran free for Leicester City forward Jamie Vardy – scorer of only two Premier League goals so far this season. The slight striker took the ball away from the onrushing Reina, who duly brought him down by the ankles. It could quite easily have seen further punishment for Reina, but England seemed more than content with just a penalty. It speaks volumes when a striker decides not to take the penalty, but Jamie Vardy is very much a man off-form, and so Adam Lallana stepped up. The Liverpool midfielder had scored in his past two England matches, and made that a hat-trick of sorts at Wembley. Reina dived the correct way, but Lallana’s penalty was well struck, well placed and gave England a well-deserved ninth minute lead. A busy first-half did not see much more interest at either goalmouth, and at half-time, it was England 1-0 Spain.
At the half-way point, Tom Heaton and Phil Jagielka replaced Joe Hart and Gary Cahill. The second period began, and Spain asserted their dominance early on once again. But once again, it was from England winning the ball and countering, that the first chance arose. A blistering England counter, left Sterling free to play in Jamie Vardy. The forward span out wide, and crossed for Sterling, who had continued his run. The ball was headed clear by Nacho of Arsenal, but only as far as captain on the night – Jordan Henderson. The Liverpool captain crossed into the box. Jamie Vardy hurtled himself at the ball. The Leicester man produced the most acrobatic of diving headers, bulleting the ball past a helpless Pepe Reina. The Spanish backline formed a sea of blame. England’s players paused to perform the Mannequin challenge, before acknowledging the crowd – 87,000 people to witness England 2-0 up over Spain. Substitute Theo Walcott [on for the injured scorer Adam Lallana] produced a fine save from Pepe Reina, before Jordan Henderson screwed the rebound wide, and Spain gained the upper-hand once more.
David Silva and debutant Iago Aspas were both denied by fine England defending, before Spain pulled a goal back. Real Madrid star Álvaro Morata was passed to by Silva, as Spain looked to counter-attack. The striker found the run of Aspas. The Celta Vigo man was allowed to run and run and run, before shooting at Tom Heaton’s goal. The strike flew into the net, cannoning off of the left-hand post. It was a brilliant debut goal from a former Liverpool flop, and it gave Spain a glimmer of hope as the game entered five minutes of stoppage-time. Some physical wing play from substitute Nolito led to David Silva knocking the ball down for another substitute, Isco. The Real Madrid man had a swing on the volley, but John Stones denied Julien Lopetegui’s men the equaliser with a fine close-range block. As stoppage-time neared its end, La Roja ramped up the pressure once more. Real Madrid full-back Dani Carvajal was presented the ball, with six seconds of stoppage-time left. The defender played a delightful ball forward, finding the run of Real teammate Isco from long-range. The midfielder controlled with his stomach, leaving himself with quite an angle with which to finish. Despite the tight angle, his shot trickled through Heaton’s legs agonisingly, and into the net. There were wild Spanish celebrations, and utter England dismay, but with virtually the last kick, and in virtually the last second, of the game, the scoreline changed to England 2-2 Spain.