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Gaspar wonder-goal gives England reality check in Spain

| 15.11.2015

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | November 13, 2015

Spain 2-0 England

  • Gaspar gets second goal in as many caps with stunning solo effort
  • Cazorla adds another for Spain late on
  • La Roja inflict first defeat on Three Lions since World Cup

Gaspar’s gasper sends England back down to earth

Almost three years to the day since Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an audacious overhead kick in an end-of-year friendly against England, Villarreal right back Mario Gaspar grabbed a stunning solo goal for Spain in Alicante worthy of challenging the Swede’s sensational strike.

Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla also netted with a precise finish, being teed up by fellow sub Nolito after a poor clearance from Three Lions keeper Joe Hart.

La Roja were worthy 2-0 winners, as they outclassed the visitors in possession with their slick style, and such a gulf was marked by the acrobatic effort from Gaspar and Cazorla’s cunning strike, which ended Roy Hodgson’s unbeaten run since the last World Cup.

Three Lions missing key players

England were under-strength facing Spain, 11/2 chances with Coral for a third consecutive European Championship crown, and saw their role as a dominant force from a flawless Euro 2016 qualifying campaign reversed by their hosts to great effect.

Spain v England - International Friendly - Rico Perez Stadium

Hodgson had to experiment with Wayne Rooney rested on the bench, James Milner injured and Jamie Vardy missing with a knock. That meant Ross Barkley was charged with being the central support for Harry Kane.

Vicente del Bosque’s Iberian outfit, meanwhile, were without centurion defender Sergio Ramos and gave Gaspar the nod at right back.

Spain see more of ball

Raheem Sterling’s two early openings were wasted, while Barkley dragged off target when profiting from a collectors item as Barcelona skipper Andres Iniesta misplaced a pass.

Spain v England - International Friendly - Rico Perez Stadium

Hosts Spain certainly looked more composed in possession and that showed when a ring-rusty Fabian Delph gave the ball away to them, allowing Gerard Pique to stroll up from centre back and see a deflected effort drop wide.

Barca teammate Marc Bartra, making a rare start for La Roja, almost diverted another Nou Camp name’s effort beyond Joe Hart when Sergio Busquets volleyed into a packed penalty area.

Old English frailties rear ugly head

While England had looked assured in Euro 2016 qualifying, this was more of the nervy, errant play that has accompanied many matches against footballing heavyweights.

Spain England Soccer

Thiago Alcantara limping off midway through the first-half hardly fazed Spain, with Cazorla a more than able replacement for his Bayern Munich counterpart.

Hodgson’s men did offer a sporadic threat with a Ryan Bertrand cross just evading Kane, before Paco Alcacer went close down the other end on half an hour.

Spain toy with visitors

Iniesta rolled back the years with a sublime crossfield pass using the outside of his boot to tee up the Valencia striker, but Alcacer’s shot bobbled across the bows of Hart and behind.

La Roja strike partner Diego Costa followed suit with a curling effort when Chelsea clubmate Cesc Fabregas pulled back for him, after Delph gave the ball way again.

Spain v England - International Friendly - Rico Perez Stadium

Barkley’s determined run then deserved a better finish than being wildly off target. The Three Lions improved late in the first-half, with a Kane shot blocked and another effort wide, with Delph forcing Casillas into an easy save in between when Cazorla was caught napping.

Gaspar and Cazorla run riot

Jordi Alba’s cross-shot being turned behind by Hart and another Kane attempt fired wide punctuated a quiet start to the second 45, but Gaspar then lit up Alicante with his audacious overhead kick when set up by Fabregas with 18 minutes left.

England stopper and stand-in skipper Hart had to be on hand to thwart Juan Mata and Pedro Rodriguez, who both came off Spain’s bench, yet then saw a poor clearance punished.

Nolito survived appeals for offside to set up Cazorla to sidefoot sweetly inside the near post and seal a Spanish victory. Casillas parried from Kane at the death, with Spurs teammate Dele Alli unable to snap up the rebound on a frustrating night for England.

Spain sobering for England expectations

La Roja’s rampant result is a sobering reality check for the Three Lions, and underlines what many naysayers have pointed out. Euro 2016 qualifying was easy and reaching an expanded format tournament finals has helped Hodgson flatter to deceive.

When once again stepping up against elite opposition, England were found wanting. There’s no calculating for a goal of Gaspar’s quality, but there were too many passengers in midfield and confidence looked brittle against some of the best engine room operators in the world.

It’s back to the drawing board for Hodgson, who must pick his wounded Lions up for a battle with cross-Channel foes and Euro 2016 hosts France on home soil.


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Jamie Clark

Athletics aficionado, die-hard snooker fan and Crystal Palace supporter Jamie has written for Coral since February 2014 after spells with Soccerlens and the Press Association as a digital journalist and copywriter. A former East Midlands sports correspondent and Bwin tipster, he is a graduate of both the University of York and University of Sheffield, with a Masters in web journalism from the latter.