Spanish superstar, Diego Costa, claimed his team mates were “not hungry for the ball” as Spain fell 0-1 to an English team that remarkably had the better of play against the vaunted Spanish midfield.
It was a lackluster match with both sides overly cautious in possession. Missing from the Spaniards were the daring runs, the breathtaking passes and the uncanny vision – replaced by stolid passing that seemed bereft of ideas and inspiration. The bland tactics seemed to suit England perfectly and played into the home team’s strengths.
Still Spain had chances as they attacked the English defensive line with dogged determination, but poor finishing.
Spain’s best early chance came in just the 12th minute when David Silva found himself in space on the wing. Defying the cover defense, Silva worked his way across the pitch and then slipped a neat ball inside for Costa. However the shot was poorly aimed and lacked power; Hart had no trouble stopping the strike.
The game lapsed into a tactical stalemate until England scored the only goal of the match in the 29th minute.
The winner was sparked by the work of Michael Keane who seized on the ball in the middle of the park and ran straight at the Spanish defense. Sterling made an intelligent run wide off the ball that drew the attention of a defender as Keane slipped through a narrow gap, laying off a short pass to Defoe on his shoulder who blasted a shot past the Spanish goalkeeper from 12 yards out.
After tearing a hole in the middle of the Spanish defense, Keane slips a short pass to Defoe who scores the winning goal from 12 yards.
The goal brought the vast English crowd cheering to its feet – and for the rest of the first half Spain began to fight back, showing glimpses of what they were capable of. Their passing improved, yet still they lacked the inspired creativity for which they have become renown. In the 40th minute the Spanish had one last chance to salvage the match when Costa jinked his way through the defensive line. Sadly, the final pass to Carvajal went astray and Joe Hart flashed off his line to make a daring save at Carvajal’s feet to diffuse the imminent danger.
England’s goalkeeper, Joe Hart, pounces off his line to dive at the feet of a Spanish attacker and diffuse a dangerous threat.
In the second half, the game ground down to a midfield struggle of fierce tackling and broken possession. With neither team able to gain the ascendancy, the match dissolved into a scrappy street fight until a sudden flurry of opportunities for England threatened to widen the difference between the two teams.
In the 67th minute Dele Alli received the ball on the edge of the Spanish penalty box and exploded into a dazzling, weaving run that carried him through two Spanish tackles and into the six-yard box. Incredibly, Alli’s shot from close range was saved by the Spanish keeper, who finger-tipped the ball over the crossbar for a corner.
How could he miss? Deli Alli mesmerizes the Spanish defense and then has his shot on goal saved from just a few yards out.
Then, in the 75th minute the match erupted in controversy when Adam Lallana appeared to be clearly fouled inside the penalty box by Iniesta. The English crowd roared in expectation, but incredibly the referee waved play on, and the Spanish recovered the ball and played to safety.
Controversy! Lallana brought down in the penalty box by Iniesta… but the referee allows play to continue.
It was the last brief flickering highlight of the match which wound down into a series of brash and desperate passes as Spain tried valiantly to breach an England defense that had acquitted itself well under pressure.
When the final whistle blew, it heralded a sense of bitter frustration from the Spanish and only muted celebrations from the winning English side. The home team had won… against a Spanish team that was a mere shadow of its dazzling brilliant self.