Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spain 2-0 England: David Beckham and The Three Lions Get Exactly What They Deserve

England were comprehensively beaten by a rampant Spanish side on a historic night for "Brand Beckham" as David Beckham claimed his 108th cap to join the great Bobby Moore as England's most capped outfield player.

Spain won 2-0 thanks to goals from David Villa and Fernando Llorente, bringing Fabio Capello's unbeaten run to an end. In truth, England were outplayed from start to finish, and although the team was a much weakened side, Capello will have to do much soul searching as he analyses his squad...

Players like Phil Jagielka, Shaun Wright Phillips, Peter Crouch, and Gabriel Agbonlahor are all very capable Premiership performers, but up against the mighty Spanish their inadequacies become most apparent.

Spain were expecting a rough ride from an improving England team so the hostile surroundings of Seville were chosen to stage the friendly. Any fears that England's coloured players would be subjected to racist abuse were quickly dispelled by an exemplary crowd. But one wonders if that would have stayed the case had England performed on any level at all.

They did start well, and the Aston Villa triumvirate of Gareth Barry, Gabriel Agbonlahor, and Emile Heskey all combined well to give Spain an early fright.

Barry set up Agbonlahor who fired agonizingly wide before he headed over himself and then Heskey appeared to be taken down after he broke through the Spanish defence but the referee strangely awarded a free out for offside.

And that was pretty much as good as it got for England. Spain played their way into the game and knocked the ball around a bewildered English team. They closed midfield down tightly and technical inadequacies from players like Barry and Wright Phillips came to the fore as the ball was given away cheaply time and time again.

Spain's opener came from a poor pass by Jagielka. The ball was picked up by Xabi Alonso who found David Villa, who then turned the Everton man inside out before he showed strength to match his skill in holding off John Terry before he fired past David James in the England goal.

A recovering Torres and a rampant Villa tore England's backline apart throughout and only a last ditch block by John Terry from Villa's goal-bound shot stopped Spain going further ahead.

Spain's midfield of Xavi, Iniesta, and Alonso controlled the match throughout and they taught England's midfield a real lesson in both passing and closing down. When Player of the Year elect Michael Carrick did get on the ball, he was closed down immediately and his passing range was somewhat nullified.

England made it to halftime one down and Capello made a mass of changes as he hoped to fire some impetus into his team. David Beckham was one of five changes at half time, thus making his historic appearance.

Spain continued to control the game and their midfield left England chasing shadows for the most part. A second goal was always in the cards and Fernando Llorente added that elusive goal eight minutes from time to kill the game.

Llorente had come on at the hour mark for Fernando Torres and with Liverpool fans across the world clutching rosary beads and praying to whatever God would listen that the Spaniard's hamstrings would make it through the match unscathed.

England were largely impotent in the second half, and although Beckham appears to have lost another yard of pace his passing was crisp. The best chances that England created came from the boot of Beckham (who passed to Shaun Wright Phillips) and Carlton Cole.

The Manchester City miniature fired at Pepe Reina, who dealt with the shot easily before Cole rounded the Liverpool stopper and was only denied a debut goal by an outstanding goal line clearance by Pique.

The two passes were Beckham's only real contribution in a game that Spain had a real strangle hold on. And just to put the dot on the exclamation point of this 108th cap, Beckham got himself booked in injury time for dissent.

It was Fabio Capello's first real test as England manager, and although England were hardly at full strength, the Italian maestro will be most concerned with the way England were outplayed for long periods and how his players did not seem to have the knowledge of how to play themselves into the game.

And with Brand Beckham finally getting his 108th cap, Capello will be more than happy that most media attention will be on Beckham rather than his team.

Player Ratings

England: James (6) (Green (5)), Johnson(6), Ashley Cole(6), Carrick(5), Jagielka(4) (Upson (5)), Terry(6), Wright-Phillips(4), Barry(5) (Lampard (6)), Heskey(5) (Crouch (5)), Downing(4) (Beckham(6)), Agbonlahor(6) (Carlton Cole(6))

Subs: Hart, Bridge, Ferdinand, Milner, Ashley Young

twitter / WillieGannon