But this was a strange game, and all of you
who read this will have experienced watching your team produce a backs
to the wall performance as the opposing team dominates and continually
pins them back into their own half for long periods.
Usually you would probably be watching your team in an away
match in these circumstances, but this was
England, playing at home, at Wembley,
under the cosh from start to finish and yet winning by converting one
of only two chances that came their way.
Who said possession football is the way to go?
It was obvious from the start that manager
Fabio Capello had been working on a plan to counteract the possession
football that Spain have found so successful for them over the past
few years. In the first
half England set themselves up with two banks of four and with Scott
Parker doing all the hard work in front of the back four, whilst
Darren Bent ploughed a lone furrow up front.
The system would invite Spain
to play through the middle and hopefully defenders would be able to
mop up every attack as it came at them.
The plan worked perfectly.
In this case it certainly helped that Capello was an Italian,
because this was a typical Italian style performance, made famous over
the years in so many Italian team's victories in various competitions.
held the ball and passed it around in their usual style, but when they
met the England
defensive barrier, they lacked the guile and creativity to break
their part defended superbly and Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka had
magnificent games at the heart of the home defence.
Their positional play and levels of concentration were
exemplorary, and it also inspired those around them, as everyone
worked their socks off to carry out Capello's plan to the letter.
create chances through the game, a side of their talent always will,
but to be honest Joe Hart had as easy a first half as he has had for
ages. In fact the first
half was largely boring to watch for an English fan as there was very
little by way of goalmouth action.
I must be in the minority I know, but watching
play their brand of football bores me to death, it is like watching
Arsenal, why make one pass when 132 would do!
There was little in the first half to enthuse over as the game
was dominated by pretty football being stifled by terrific and
It was a goal four minutes after the restart
that livened up the game and that was mainly because the goal was
scored, surprisingly, by England.
They had not created a chance worthy of the name in the first
45 minutes but here was a free kick out on the left wing that gave
them the opportunity to put the Spanish defence under pressure for the
first time. The lively
James Milner took the kick and flighted a beautiful, inswinging centre
into the middle where Darren Bent, so often starved of the ball in
that first half, rose to head the ball down and goalwards.
Substitute goalkeeper Pepe Reina dived and the ball struck the
post before rebounding across goal.
And there was England's
captain, on hand to nod in the easiest of his 23
goals from all of one yard out!
(Sorry to his grandkids for ruining Frank's story).
The distance was reminiscent of Nobby Stiles's one
International goal scored against West
back in 1966, although he had to kick that one in.
So, the phrase 'cat amongst pigeons' certainly
came to mind at that point and Spain almost produced an immediate
response when Sergio Busquets sent a ball through the middle, which
David Villa anticipated superbly.
Hart came out and managed to force Villa wide, in fact wide
enough as it turned out, as Villa went round the keeper but couldn't
quite hit the target with his shot.
From then on
upped the pace, but England
matched them, and with Parker making some brilliant interceptions,
tackles and passes, and being a proverbial pain to the Spaniards, and
Lescott, Jagielka and the ever-reliable Ashley Cole defending
magnificently, Hart still had a relatively quiet time.
actually had around 23 goal attempts during the game but only two were
on target and Hart easily saved both of those.
However, substitute Fabregas will be kicking himself for not
scoring at least one goal in that last half hour.
One pass sent him clean through to the right of goal and a
cross shot to the far corner would probably have succeeded, but
thankfully for England his old Arsenal brain kicked in and he decided
to try one more pass, and man-of-the-match Parker touched the ball
away from the attacker as the pass came square.
Fabregas was also guilty of the miss of the
match when right at the death he finally escaped the clutches of
England's vice-like defence to meet a
perfect Villa cross, but only succeeded in scuffing his shot wide of
the goal, much to the delight and relief of the home fans.
The best of
Spain's efforts had earlier fallen to
Villa after Glen Johnson's weak header had given the
Barcelona player the chance to volley
goalwards. For once Hart
was stretched but the ball hit the outside of the post and was
defenders had deserved that slice of luck and the discipline they had
shown throughout was absolutely superb.
It must have pleased the manager no end and Capello can also be
pleased with the contribution of Phil Jones and substitute Jack
Rodwell as the young brigade continue to shine for
A win against the World Champions, and all this without Rooney,
Terry, Gerrard, Ferdinand, Young etc etc.
So much for Spain,
blimey it was our reserve team that beat them!!
Seriously though, a splendid win, not one to
get carried away with, but one to savour nonetheless.