By Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Gareth Southgate’s final game as England interim manager ended in disappointment as Spain’s late comeback meant the Three Lions were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw.
Adam Lallana put England ahead from the penalty spot within the first ten minutes, after Jamie Vardy was fouled by Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina. England’s impressive performance then got even better as Vardy got himself on the score sheet early in the second half, as he powered home a header - his first in 15 games.
However, Iago Aspas brought the Spaniards back into the game on 89 minutes, as he fired home a thunderous shot to reduce the deficit to 2-1. And deep into stoppage time, Isco found himself in behind the England defence, and he duly slotted home to add one final twist in a thoroughly entertaining friendly.
Southgate made three changes to the England team that beat Scotland 3-0 on Friday, with Clyne, Lingard and Vardy all coming into the side. It was the Leicester City frontman who played a key role in opening the scoring, as he received Lallana’s through ball but was brought down in the penalty area by Reina. Lallana stepped up to take the spot kick, and calmly converted to give England the lead.
Unfortunately, the Liverpool playmaker’s game was then ended prematurely, as he limped off after 25 minutes.
Spain continued to dominate possession in the first half and missed some glaring opportunities. Juan Mata’s comeback to Vitolo after 15 minutes was excellent, but the winger’s finish was not as he dragged his shot wide.
Man of the match Vardy then scored his first goal since September 10th three minutes into the second half, as he planted home a header from captain Jordan Henderson’s excellent delivery.
Burnley shot stopper, Tom Heaton, was brought on in the second half and was tested throughout as Spain looked for a route back into the game. He made a good save down low from David Silva’s well hit shot, and later stood tall at his post to deflect away another effort.
The substitutions of Ander Herrera, making his international debut, and Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, reinvigorated the Spaniards, who increased the tempo of their play and attempted more incisive passes through the English defence.
After 89 minutes, former Liverpool forward Aspas got a goal back for the visitors with a venomous effort that cannoned in off the post. And in the 95th minute Spain completed their comeback – as a fantastic threaded pass located Isco, whose silky run lost his marker, before he slotted a finish through the legs of the despairing Heaton.
Bournemouth midfielder Jack Wilshire was once again an unused sub, after also failing to come off the Bench against Scotland on Friday night.
The Football Association must now make a decision on who the permanent England boss will be, but this battling performance against the former World Cup winners surely has placed Southgate firmly as the favourite.
England: Hart (Heaton 45’), Clyne, Cahill (Jagielka 45’), Stones, Rose (Cresswell 79’), Henderson, Dier, Sterling (Townsend 65’), Lallana (Walcott 27’), Lingard, Vardy (Rashford 67’)
Spain: Reina, Azpilicueta, Inigo Martinez, Nacho, Carvajal, Busquets (Nolito 78’), Thiago Alcantara (Herrera 56’), Machin Perez (Koke 45’), Mata (Iago Aspas 45’), Silva (Isco 64’), Aduriz (Morata 64’)