They’ll be talking about this game for ages. It’s not every day that perennial under-achievers England beat the reigning World and European champions. But that’s precisely what they did against a star-studded Spanish side that simply failed to get past a resilient bulldog-like defensive English backline that the men of World War I, to whom the Remembrance Day poppies were dedicated, would have been proud of.
Dad Of The Year – Or Maybe Not
Fabio Capello might not have endeared himself to his family back home, by choosing to opt to attend the friendly between England and Spain as opposed to his youngest son’s wedding. Pierfilippo Capello who married Tiziana Scanu on Saturday, had scheduled his wedding for Saturday afternoon after presuming, like most people, that Friday night would be the day the friendly was played.
That was not to be however, as Barcelona’s players were involved in a Cup game on Wednesday, which resulted in the friendly getting scheduled for Saturday instead. On the other hand, Fabio’s probably endeared himself to the Three Lion’s fans who, along with their team marked Remembrance Day (11th Nov), with renditions of God Save The Queen. With the 1-0 win under his belt, and a massive selection headache to contend with, the Italian might feel he has something to cheer.
Scant Reward For Del Bosque’s Boys
No prizes for predicting Spain would do what they did in both halves. They thoroughly dominated possession with a whopping 71% cut of the possession pie, while England had to stay content with the remaining measly 29%. Spain also managed 21 shots to England’s 3 attempts.
Of England’s 3 shots, 2 were on goal, while the defending World Champions who were strangely impotent up front could only manage the same stat out of their 21 shots. Spain lacked pace up front with Villa showing only glimpses of form, content to let Silva at times operate as a centre-forward.
Spain’s weak physicality will also be something for Del Bosque to ponder on as England’s back four, often caught out of position, still managed to get the Spanish out of the danger zone. For all of Spain’s triangular passing play in the midfield, and England’s lack of answers to it, the former had precious little to show for it.
For a game that was quite the midfield tussle, Jones seemed to always conjure up acres of space. Operating in tandem with stand-in captain Frank Lampard, Manchester United’s Jones would often provide the impetus for England’s counter attacks even if he turned inexplicably conservative in the final third, opting to send the ball back into midfield.
Ashley Cole was imperious in defending and in attack; and it might not have been a coincidence that most of Spain’s attack came on the Spanish left flank. Even the eternally menacing Iniesta opted to drift in from the right, in the final third.
Scott Parker who, like good wine, seems to be getting better with age was critical in marshaling England midfield’s defensive senses, throwing himself into tackles with superb anticipation, even if a couple of them were ill-advised. Spare a thought for Joleon Lescott who turned in a stand-out performance against one of the most feared sides in world football.
Sergio Ramos may have had the rub of the green prior to the game. Ramos could arguably have seen red twice, with a more card-happy referee or in a competitive international game. Ramos first cynically blocked a rampaging Theo Walcott, by throwing his arms up.
The referee Frank de Bleeckere chose not to penalize him though. Perhaps a tad incensed, James Milner who sees himself as one of England’s bravest enforcers, went in for an astute challenge on Ramos, getting the ball with his right leg, but toppling the Spaniard with his left. He received a yellow card for his efforts, much to the displeasure of England’s home support.
Sergio then pushed the envelope even further, by fouling Theo Walcott again. It would take until the second half, for some degree of parity to be restored. Sergio went all guns blazing with a two footed lunge on English striker Darren Bent, and was promptly hauled up by the referee. The Spanish, thinking he’d suffer the ignominy of seeing a red card in a friendly, were soon swarming around de Bleeckere trying to talk him out of any decision. It may have helped, as Sergio saw only yellow.
It’s Called Using Your Head
Just a few minutes into the second half, James Milner, who was fouled by Arbeloa, on the left took an exceptionally good free kick which Darren Bent headed towards goal, while Reina scrambled on the ground. The ball looked like it was spinning, possibly right back into the net, when none other than captain for the day Frank Lampard arrived on the scene, as he so often does to score the decisive goal.
Interestingly, he’s now scored his last 3 goals with headers. Frank’s intelligent, and now he’s proven yet again he’s one of those truly special midfielders who while not gifted with pace or dribbling ability, still find the extra spark to give their teams the lift-up they badly need. Between him and Scott Parker, the man of the match, England’s old timers have given themselves a shot in the arm. Days ago, Frank’s career with England was under question and Capello will have found his answer today.
Danny Welbeck sent Rodwell driving in, in quite the promising fashion, only for the Englishman to concede a goal kick under questionable circumstances. Despite that, Everton’s wonderkid proved why he’s been in such demand by turning in a delightful cameo performance in midfield, even if he can double up as a ball-playing centre-half who happens to be good in the air.
Spain’s stars, on the other hand, would have drawn little consolation from their string of misses. David Villa missed superb chance to score from a Johnson header that fell fortuitously for him, but in a near carbon copy of England’s goal his shot had the ball come spinning off the goal post, with nobody around to give it a helpful nudge this time. It certainly wasn’t going to be Frank Lampard.
But the disaster of the game would have to be Fabregas’ 89th minute miss, with the ball just whizzing past the outside of the post. To make matters worse, it came at a time when the former Arsenal skipper was beginning to exert himself in manners good and bad on the game. The previous minute saw him give Rodwell the skip, only to find his powerful shot blocked by Joe Hart called into action for quite possibly the first time in the game. He’d been roundly booed after claiming a penalty under duress from Barry minutes earlier, and the two subsequent misses were much to the home crowd’s delight.