Published: Friday 13th November 2015 by The News Editor
Mario Gaspar scored a stunning acrobatic volley as Spain ended England’s 15-match unbeaten run in merciless fashion in Alicante.
Despite having his back to goal, the Spain right-back managed to beat Joe Hart with a flying volley from Cesc Fabregas’ pass.
It was a wonderful goal worthy of winning any match, but Santiago Cazorla made sure of the 2-0 win eight minutes from time.
England, who started with Wayne Rooney on the bench, held their own for much of the first half. Ryan Bertrand and Raheem Sterling impressed down the left, but eventually Roy Hodgson’s men crumbled under intense pressure and Spain ran out deserved winners.
Hodgson’s men had the chance to prove they were capable of going toe to toe with Europe’s best, but they came up short.
The Spanish dominated possession from the first whistle and England did not help themselves by giving the ball away regularly.
Michael Carrick, who was carried off on a stretcher late on, looked lost in midfield and Fabian Delph was wasteful too.
Their run may have been impressive, but on this evidence they have a long way to go before they can call themselves European Championship contenders.
It was clear from kick-off that Gerard Pique’s declaration he supported independence for Catalonia had not gone down well with the vast majority of Spain fans.
Every time the Barcelona defender touched the ball, whistles and boos rang out around inside the Estadio Jose Rico Perez.
That aside, the 29,500 spectators did their best to create a party atmosphere inside the open-air stadium.
They were here to see a fiesta of football and their players gave it to them.
In the first half the hosts enjoyed 68 per cent possession. Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Thiago Alcantara hogged the ball and attempted to conjure up an opening goal.
Fabregas telegraphed a beautiful 40-yard ball over the England defence for Diego Costa, but Phil Jones recovered just in time to deny the Chelsea striker.
It looked like Pique might have given Spain the lead when his shot looped up in the air off Carrick, but the ball dropped just wide.
Carrick, unable to keep up with the pace of play, was booked for a high tackle on the troublesome Thiago.
Luckily for England, Thiago suffered an injury and was substituted for Cazorla.
When Spain finally allowed England to have the ball, they found the best use for it down the left.
Sterling and Bertrand whipped in low crosses, but no one could finish. Harry Kane and Delph all registered shots on target, but Iker Casillas had no trouble saving them.
Hodgson brought debutant Eric Dier on for Delph while Dele Alli replaced Adam Lallana.
Even without Thiago and Andres Iniesta, who was substituted at the break, Spain had no trouble keeping the ball, and it looked inevitable they would score.
Hart saved well to deny Jordi Alba. At the other end, Kane fizzed a dipping drive just wide.
Any hopes England had of taking the lead were dashed in the 72nd minute when Fabregas chipped a ball into the box and Mario unleashed an acrobatic volley that flew past Hart. The whole ground rose to their feet and applauded.
Twelve minutes later Spain killed the game off. Cazorla was given space on the edge of the box and he took full advantage, curling the ball in off a post. Hart thought the goal should not have stood. He complained with the linesman and was booked.
He could have no complaints about the result, however. England had been soundly beaten.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
“I think in a friendly it’s permissible to applaud an opponent’s goal. Fabulous from Mario Gaspar” – former England striker @GaryLineker
Iker Casillas: 6 (out of 10)
Mario Gaspar: 8
Gerard Pique: 7
Marc Bartra: 7
Jordi Alba: 7
Sergio Busquets : 7
Thiago Alcantara: 7
Andres Iniesta: 7
Cesc Fabregas: 8
Diego Costa: 6
Paco Alcacer: 5
Santi Cazorla: 8 (on for Thiago, 27)
Nolito: 6 (Iniesta, 45)
Juan Mata: 7 (Costa, 63)
Pedro: 5 (Alcacer, 74)
Koke: 5 (Busquets, 78)
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6 (Barta, 82)
Joe Hart: 6
Kyle Walker: 5
Phil Jones: 7
Chris Smalling: 6
Ryan Bertrand: 7
Fabian Delph: 5
Michael Carrick: 5
Adam Lallana: 6
Ross Barkley: 6
Raheem Sterling: 7
Harry Kane: 6
Eric Dier (Delph, 63): 6
Dele Alli (Lallana, 63): 6
Wayne Rooney (Barkley, 73): 6
Gary Cahill (Smalling, 85): 5
Jonjo Shelvey (Carrick, 90): 6
MAN OF THE MATCH & MOMENT OF THE MATCH:
Mario Gaspar – few English fans will have heard of the Villarreal right-back before this evening, but it is fair to say his goal changed that. Mario’s exceptional volley on the turn will live long in the memory.
MOAN OF THE MATCH:
The Spanish Federation have done a great job engaging local fans and selling all their tickets, but unfortunately that organisation did not translate to the stadium organisation itself. It was poor at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez from start to finish.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH:
Roy Hodgson always wanted to use this match to experiment, so it was no surprise to see the reigning European champions emerge victorious. Vincente del Bosque also made changes, but their ability to boss possession was far superior.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart was visibly deflated following the defeat and when asked if England had been outclassed, he told ITV Sport: “It’s hard to say. Spain obviously played well but we made a lot of chances, we set up well and it was a special goal that decided the game.
“We’ve got players that are capable of that, but so have they, as they have proven, but it was a great goal.
“It’s strange how we’ve ended up playing on a Third Division pitch for a game like England v Spain. It wasn’t good enough, I’m not making excuses. I’m upset. We’ve done well for a long time now so it’s difficult when we do lose.
“We had some chances, we were in the game. We need to dust ourselves off and perform better against France.
“We did break through Spain and we did that on enough occasions but after that we let ourselves down a little bit.”
Hart was quick to point out the positives, adding: “We’ve got a good basis with players like Dele (Alli) and Eric Dier and boys that haven’t played that many games. I was an old man out there at 28 years old so that’s one promising thing but not a great day.”
Manager Roy Hodgson felt his side were unlucky with the timing of Mario’s stunning opener: “I’m a bit disappointed because for 70 minutes I thought we defended very well. It was a poor goal to concede on a counter-attack for us. We gave the ball away and got punished by a fantastic goal and of course we were losing players in midfield around that time.
“We had taken Delph and Lallana off already and then Michael Carrick gets injured and we concede the second goal with Chris Smalling limping so we didn’t have the best of luck in those areas.
“We played against a very good team, we knew that, the game was pretty much as we expected and for 70 minutes I thought we held up pretty well and in fact we were getting back into the game possession-wise when they scored, but I can’t say we deserved to win the game, they were the better team.”
Published: Friday 13th November 2015 by The News Editor