Sunday 11 December 2016

Spain strike late to spoil Southgate coronation

England 2 Spain 2

James Ducker

Published 16/11/2016 | 02:30

Phil Jagielka goes to lift the ball out of the net after England concede a late equaliser against Spain. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Phil Jagielka goes to lift the ball out of the net after England concede a late equaliser against Spain. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Frozen in time first in celebration and then, with five minutes of injury time played, England's players found themselves once again momentarily afflicted by the kind of stasis that has gripped them rather too often over the years.

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For those not acquainted with the mannequin challenge which England's players borrowed for the celebrations for Jamie Vardy's second-half goal, it is just one of those things sweeping social media because, well, something has to.

England's interim manager Gareth Southgate has words with the fourth official after Spain's late equaliser. Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine
England's interim manager Gareth Southgate has words with the fourth official after Spain's late equaliser. Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine

When Vardy dived to head in England's second goal two minutes after half-time, the Leicester man and his team-mates briefly froze, mid-convergence, for what counts these days as general badinage.

Unfortunately, for Gareth Southgate, they conceded twice in the last seven minutes of the game - including a second goal five minutes into time added on - so that a two-goal lead, and a potentially famous victory for the new manager in waiting, slipped through their fingers.

Beating Scotland erased all doubt that Southgate would be made the permanent manager of the England side, but beating Spain would have meant that he could have rolled on to St George's Park next week with a bit of gunslinger swagger.

As it is, the job will be his but he was given an early taste of how things can go wrong with those late goals from Iago Aspas and Isco - as if Southgate did not know already.

Adam Lallana puts England ahead from the penalty spot. Photo: Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Adam Lallana puts England ahead from the penalty spot. Photo: Reuters / Eddie Keogh

RELAXED

That said, Southgate's players were relaxed about absorbing long periods of classic Spanish possession and yet they deployed their best qualities effectively, winning a penalty early on when Vardy ran onto Adam Lallana's direct forward ball and the Liverpool man later converted the spot-kick.

An injury to Lallana, which necessitated his first-half replacement cast a bit of shade over the night for England. It should also be said that England did not miss the injured Wayne Rooney and, with Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling combining fluently behind Vardy, they looked a more dynamic side.

There will have to be some process observed by the FA in Southgate's appointment but seven years since he was sacked by Middlesbrough, he has made it easy for the governing body to wave through his appointment.

Jamie Vardy and Raheem Sterling celebrate together after Vardy doubles England's lead. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Jamie Vardy and Raheem Sterling celebrate together after Vardy doubles England's lead. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Vardy's header came at the start of the second half and in the minutes that followed Theo Walcott should really have added a third when the Leicester man played him in down the right. Instead Pepe Reina saved this time, although the goalkeeper should have done better with Vardy's header.

For Spain's first goal Aspas drew John Stones in with a minute of the 90 to play and curled a fine left-footed shot past substitute Tom Heaton.

Then, Isco took the ball on his chest and beat Heaton from close range to demonstrate that defeating a team with as much talent in depth as Spain have is never straightforward.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Tom Heaton punches a cross away from the England goal. Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley
Tom Heaton punches a cross away from the England goal. Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley

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