Saturday, November 12, 2011

Live Thoughts: England vs Spain (Friendly)

I covered this match live. Here are my thoughts on the match between England and Spain

Hey everyone, welcome to another live thoughts post. Today England are going to try and take on the best team in world football at the moment, Spain. I love how the usual over-optimistic press are crapping in their pants over the thought of us going against Spain today. No one expects us to win. I don't expect us to win either. But it's so funny and nice to see the press actually be realistic for once. I don't think England are anywhere near Spain in terms of current national squad or development of youth. But so what, it's a one off match at Wembley! Let's go for it! I hope we win today, it's a win we really need in terms of boosting our confidence for the Euros. I don't think we'll win the Euros but let's give it a go, we can still compete with any team out there on our day, just not consistently, especially on paper, we're not on the same level. But throw it all out of the window today and let's go for it!

Here are the teams...

England: Hart, G Johnson, Jagielka, Lescott, Cole, Walcott, Jones, Parker, Lampard, Milner, Bent. Subs: Carson, Stockdale, Johnson, Cahill, Walker, Baines, Barry, A Johnson, Downing, Rodwell, Sturridge, Zamora.

A very interesting line up, it looks like we might be playing 4-3-3 today which is a nice, refreshing attacking line up. That being said it opens up wide gaps for Spain to attack if they have possession. Intriguing.

Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, Villa, Silva... Subs: Reina, Valdes, Puyol, Albiol, Monreal, Cazorla, Fabregas, Mata, Navas, Torres, Llorente.

Welcome back Arbeloa and Alonso! Nice to see our old Reds back and better than ever. This is such a strong team. I don't see a weakness anywhere really, we need to be on form today and not let them have possession otherwise we're going to really struggle today.

3' - A teasing game at the moment, both sides testing the other's mettle. We're not looking that bad at the moment but it's very very early.

5' - Spain starting to gain some more possession now, trying and failing so far to break the defence.

8' - Loads of possession for Spain, the way you'd expect them to be. Apart from one small moment earlier where Phil Jones was in a good area, we haven't done anything.

11' - David Villa takes the ball into the penalty are and shoots with his left foot, it's deflected by Phil Jagielka for a corner.

14' - Not much to report at the moment, just loads of Spain possession with no penetration of our defence. We're counter attacking when possible, which isn't often.

15' - A small spell on the cusp of the Spanish box for England dissolves but we're getting forward once in a while. And every time we do the crowd gets excited, it's quite funny being the underdogs for a change, we're giggling like little girls when we get the ball. Really funny!

18' - In all honesty, the game really hasn't opened up at the moment, it's quite boring, seeing Spain with the possession and getting nowhere. Naturally the second half will be a better spectacle but I was hoping for a little more from both sides than this.

21' - The commentators just said that England for the last two years have had 15 different central defence partnerships. That's an amazing statistic.

23' - A great Spanish move ends with Silva miscuing a shot. David Villa passes to Jordi Alba I think, who cuts the ball to Silva who just mistimed his shot. Very close.

26' - We're definitely defending well. We're not giving Spain much space in the final third although the levels of possession are concerning.

29' - We keep biting at Spain once in a while, we're like guard dogs at the moment, it's quite cool to see us being this rock in defence and a niggle going forward.

32' - Very little to report in this friendly for long spurts, we've just got a free kick about 40 yards out, Xabi Alonso on Darren Bent. A little harsh but nothing comes of the free kick anyway.

35' - Iniesta takes a shot and it deflects off Joleon Lescott. Silva set Iniesta up for that shot. Corner, and it comes to nothing.

38' - The game is slowly starting to open up on both sides. Not too much, but you can feel a change in the air.

40' - Walcott finds some space and takes on a few Spanish players! He takes on Sergio Ramos who blocks his path intentionally. If it wasn't a friendly that would be an instant ytellow card.

41' - James Milner gets a yellow card for a dirty tackle on Ramos. He clips his foot with both his legs. Ramos should have been booked earlier too, but this was also deserving of a yellow.

43' - The referee is booed as Theo Walcott once again attempts to take on Ramos only for him to get knocked to the floor, the ref deemed the ball was kicked too far forward for it to affect play. It's debatable.

44' - Glen Johnson also gets forward and it takes Ramos and Jordi Alba to deal with him, he almost wins a corner but got the last touch and it goes for a goal kick. There's some problems for Spain down the England right wing, it's good news for the second half.

45' - One minute of added time.

45+1' - Half time.

It's been a boring match to watch in honesty. Spain have been quietly dominant of possession, but have failed to break England down in long periods. England have been little bull terriers for the most part, chomping at Spain's feet and stopping their obvious technical threat. We've made the most of the little possession we have had, and only for the last five minutes did we start to find a weakness in Spain, the Spanish left wing. Let's hope Walcott and Glen Johnson, who are both pacey on that right flank, can take advantage of this, but can also defend well enough for it not to be a problem for counter attacking.

45' - England Substition: Theo Walcott is off and Stewart Downing is on. I think that means that we're putting Milner on the right.

45' - Three Spain Substitutions: Liverpool legend Pepe Reina is on for Iker Casillas, David Silva and Xavi are off for Cesc Fabregas and Juan Mata. Straight swaps I'd say.

48' - GOAL! Frank Lampard! A James Milner free kick is headed by Darren Bent, Reina tries to save and it hits the post, Lampard, onside, heads the ball into an empty net before Reina can recover! Against the run of play!

50' - Poor Pepe Reina, on the pitch for less than four minutes and concedes. There's not much he could have done about that, although he wouldn't have got to Bent's header in the first place.

53' - Scott Parker gets called for a fowl on Juan Mata. He got the ball and the player, it was aggressive mind. Free leads to nothing.

55' - David Villa is free and past all the defenders, he turns past Joe Hart and shoots. Side netting. Relief. His run behind the England defence was world class.

56' - Two England Substitutions: Jack Rodwell comes on for his debut, replacing Phil Jones. Frank Lampard is replaced by Gareth Barry, who takes the captains armband.

57' - Both teams have used three substitutions, but there's a total of six in friendlies. I'm sure you knew that but just in case.

58' - Jack Rodwell makes an immediate impact by being released down the right wing, he tries to cross but it's too deep and goes for a goal kick.

59' - Sergio Ramos is yellow carded for a double footed challenge. That was woeful. He's so lucky, his block on Walcott was yellow card worthy and he gets nothing, that double footed challenge is red card worthy and he gets a yellow. Bad refereeing if you ask me.

61' - Danny Welbeck is about to come on, Bent is limping slightly.

62' - David Villa takes a dangerous free kick and it hits the England wall.

63' - England Substitution: Darren Bent's night is over and Danny Welbeck is on.

63' - Spain Substitution: Sergio Busquets is off for Fernando Torres.

65' - Rodwell is free and is pacing at Reina! His shot was tame and there was a whistle against England for a free kick anyway. Some good movement from Rodwell and Welbeck almost got a second then!

68' - They're advertising Brazil vs Egypt on ITV4. Wow. What a bizarre match to have on an English channel.

71' - England playing some good football for once. It looks like this game has been a tactical master-stroke for us. That being said we have twenty minutes left.

72' - VILLA! Hit the post! A lovely technique to chest the ball and volley, it beat Hart! So close! England counter attack and Welbeck storms forward but the pressure rises and the move dissolves.

75' - England Substitution: Adam Johnson comes on for James Milner. A direct swap I'd say.

77' - A few corners for Spain lead to nothing, although Torres had a sniff at one point.

80' - 10 minutes left. You know, if we win, I'd be really happy but you know what I'm not looking forward to? All the gloating and bragging and optimism from the press tomorrow. All the "Woo! we're one of the best teams in the world! We're amazing" crap.

81' - A scramble ensues in the England box and Fabregas tries to get the ball to Gerard Pique but Scott Parker slides to intercept. Great defending!

82' - Fabregas looks for a penalty on the cusp of the penalty box. Debatable, it did look like he was brought down but he was looking for it too.

83' - Scott Parker stops another Spain attack, the man is an industrial powerhorse when he's on form.

84' - England Substitution: A huge standing ovation for Scott Parker who goes off for Kyle Walker, who is also making his debut tonight. He's had a great season for Spurs, Walker.

87' - Another Spain attack is broken down, this time by Ashley Cole who storms forward and links with Adam Johnson, the move eventually stops for a Spain goal kick.

88' - Scott Parker wins the man of the match award. Well deserved.

88' - Torres 1-1 against his team mate Ashley Cole, he lays the ball off to Fabregas who shoots past all the defence and Hart sees it late, but saves last minute!

88' - FABREGAS! So close! He's free from the defence and takes a shot that goes to the left of Hart's post! Should have done better!

90' - Three minutes of added time. So close now.

90+2' - England are celebrating. Calm down calm down, it's not over yet!

90+3' - Full time!

This was a great win for England today. Absolutely amazing win. Yes it was a friendly. No, we didn't play very well. But we defended, brilliantly. I can't fault the defenders, Joe Hart, and in parts, Phil Jones and Scott Parker, who were all working like little bulldogs for anything upto 90 minutes today. We got the lucky goal, and it was just that, a lucky goal, and defended so so well. Does it matter? Who knows? We beat Spain, the best team in the world. It gives us confidence, the one major ingredient we have been lacking for so many years. We need confidence and not cockiness, and you know something, you never know, we could put a dent in this Euro competition! Let's remain optimistic but with our feet on the ground, and learn from our old mistakes! Come on you three lions! That's it from me today, have a good night.

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