Int Football – Super Spain down plucky England
A superior Spain side beat England 2-0 in Seville as David Beckham claimed his 108th cap, equalling the outfield record held by Bobby Moore.
David Villa opened the scoring on 36 minutes, Xabi Alonso playing the decisive pass after Everton defender Phil Jagielka – making his full debut for the virus-stricken Rio Ferdinand – gave the ball away to the Liverpool ace.
West Ham striker Carlton Cole made his international bow late on and came closest to grabbing a consolation, rounding Liverpool keeper Jose Reina from Beckham’s through-ball only to see his goal-bound shot cleared off the line by Carlos Marchena.
The passing and movement which was the hallmark of the home side’s Euro 2008 success was again very much in evidence, Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta linking with Alonso and Villarreal’s deep-lying Marcos Senna, while Valencia goal-getter Villa also dropped off to pick up possession.
Reds boss Rafael Benitez cannot have been too happy to see his star man Torres start the match so soon after an injury, but he came through okay and impressed while not threatening to score.
There was a cracking atmosphere inside Sevilla’s sold-out Ramon Sanzhez Pizjuan as the hosts came forward, playing one-touch football and seeking to unlock a compact England unit.
However it was the visitors who had the first chance, Gareth Barry – partnering Michael Carrick in the centre of midfield as he had in the friendly win over Germany in Berlin, with Frank Lampard on the bench – spinning away to cross for Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Spain had the ball in the net when the quick-thinking Iniesta played through Villa, but the pocket-sized front-man was a yard offside. Soon afterwards Torres saw a shot deflected into the air before a fortunate David James fluffed his simple catch but got away with it.
Jagielka then gave the ball away and Alonso moved it quickly to a position where he could find the incisive run of Villa, who turned the desperately retreating defender before finding the bottom corner.
England lost their momentum from that point and there were a host of changes at the break, including Beckham, while Reina and Alvaro Arbeloa of Liverpool appeared for Spain.
Shaun Wright-Phillips, who along with Agbonlahor looked good on the break without truly threatening in the first half, had to turn in some sterling defensive work after moving to the left to accommodate Beckham with full-back Sergio Ramos constantly attacking the by-line.
The Manchester City wide-man began a spell of promise for England when Beckham found him down the left channel; he cut inside Ramos and fired a curling shot too close to Reina.
Shortly after Lampard, on for Barry, headed straight at the keeper from an Agbonlahor cross, and until Hammers star Cole’s late effort that was as good as it got for England.
Spain made sure of the win in front of their celebrating supporters – the locals were witnessing their ‘rootless’ national side in the city for the first time in eight years – when Athletic Bilbao striker Llorente rose to thump a header past the reaching fingers of Robert Green, who had appeared at half-time for James.
Beckham, who left his foot in on Gerard Piquet and received a dose of retribution soon after from Arbeloa, was booked for dissent in injury-time.
The defeat ends England manager Fabio Capello’s 11-month unbeaten run, while Spain boss Vicente del Bosque continues the good work done by Luis Aragones last summer.
Both sides top their respective World Cup qualifying groups with four wins from four.