Goals from Perez Martinez and Santi Cazorla helped European Champions Spain to a 2-0 victory over England in Alicante on Friday evening.
This game, one of a number of high profile friendlies that will lead up to next summer’s tournament in France was expected to be a close-knit contest with both sides going into the game in good form.
There was caginess from both sides in the opening exchanges, with no clear cut opportunities to speak of until half way through the first half, when Sergio Busquets hit wide following a corner that was won after England had gave away possession – something that became somewhat of a habit for the visitors.
Shortly after, Santi Cazorla replaced the injured Thiago Alcantara, and the Arsenal man joined in the slick passing displayed by Vincente Del Bosque’s side who had the edge in the opening forty-five minutes but weren’t able to make any of the opportunities they were beginning to carve count.
Paco Alcacer dragged a shot wide after being fed through by Andreas Iniesta then Diego Costa fired high and wide minutes before England had their first shot on target, though Harry Kane’s effort was far too tame to trouble Iker Casillas.
Spain then piled on the pressure in first-half stoppage time before the sides went in, somewhat predictably, with the score at 0-0.
England at times echoed their famously fluid passing, but like their opponents in the first half could find no end product.
Tottenham Hotspur duo Dele Alli and Eric Dier were introduced by the visitors – the latter winning his first senior international cap – though it was their club teammate who seemed most the most likely of Roy Hodgson’s side to hit the back of the net.
Kane smashed a thunder-shot just wide moments after Bartra failed to keep his shot down after controlling nicely on the turn in the England eighteen-yard box.
The break-through finally came on seventy-two minutes when yet more silky build up play from the Spanish led to Cesc Fabrgas sublimely picking out Perez Martinez, who’s acrobatic finish was met by applause from all corners of the ground.
The visitors responded by bringing on record goal-scorer Wayne Rooney, though still it was Kane who sniffed out the chances and the twenty-two year old would have hoped to do better after linking up with debutant Dier.
However, moments later Santi Cazorla stroked the ball into the back of the net from outside of the area to double the host’s lead, despite the protests of England keeper and captain for the night Joe Hart, who in turn was handed the game’s only caution.
Late efforts from Rooney and Kane were the closest England got to getting something out of the fixture though they were in turn denied and deservedly lost for the first time since their disappointing showing at last summer’s World Cup finals.
SPAIN: Casillas 6, Mario 7, Pique 7, Bartra 7 (Azpilicueta 82, 6), Alba 7, Busquets 7 (Koke 78, 6), Thiago 6 (Cazorla 27, 8), Fabregas 8, Iniesta 7 (Nolito 45, 6), Alcacer 6 (Pedro 74, 6), Costa 6 (Mata 64, 6)
ENGLAND: Hart 7, Walker 6, Smalling 6 (Cahill 84, 6), Jones 6, Bertrand 6, Carrick 6, (Shelvey 91, 6), Delph 6 (Alli 63, 6), Lallana 5 (Dier 63, 6), Barkley 7 (Rooney 73, 6), Sterling 6, Kane 7
REFEREE: Paolo Mazzoleni (ITA)
Other results this evening:
Luxembourg 1 – 0 Greece
Czech Republic 4 – 1 Serbia
Belgium 3 – 1 Italy
Northern Ireland 1 – 0 Latvia
Poland 4 – 2 Iceland
Slovakia 3 – 2 Switzerland
Wales 2 – 3 Netherlands
France 2 – 0 Germany