Spain tame Three Lions
David Beckham won his 108th cap but England's unbeaten run came to an end as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat against Spain.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 12/02/09 12:17pm
David Beckham won his 108th cap but England's unbeaten run came to an uninspiring end as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat against reigning European Champions Spain.
The best side in the world, according to Fifa rankings, took the spoils in the friendly encounter courtesy of goals either side of half-time from Valencia's David Villa and Athletic Bilbao's highly-rated frontman Fernando Llorente.
Beckham started the match on the bench but was summoned to join the fray at half-time to equal Bobby Moore's appearance record for an England outfield player.
With a carnival atmosphere forming an ideal backdrop to the first international to be staged in Seville for a decade, Spain started the game much the brighter, with their quick feet and intelligent one-touch football giving England the run around.
However, the visitors settled quickly and were soon able to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
Emile Heskey was proving to be a handful up front, winning everything in the air, while his Aston Villa team-mate and international strike partner Gabriel Agbonlahor scuffed a volley just past the post.
John Terry then saw a glancing header flash wide, with Stewart Downing's deliveries from set-pieces causing the Spaniards all sorts of problems.
A slight knock to Shaun Wright Phillips had Beckham off his seat moments later, but the iconic midfielder was forced to bide his time in his pursuit of an historic 108th cap.
Meanwhile, England's bright start was beginning fade and they soon found themselves pushed onto the back foot.
Fernando Torres had a snap-shot deflected over the top and Marcos Senna tested David James' handling with an ambitious drive from distance.
Villa then had the ball in the net on 26 minutes as he latched onto a clever pass from Andres Iniesta, but he was adjudged to have strayed offside.
A lapse in concentration from James, as he fumbled a high ball to the feet of Torres, had English hearts racing, but the Portsmouth keeper was bailed out by a fine block from Phil Jagielka.
The goal was coming, though, and it duly arrived on 36 minutes when Villa showed nimble feet inside the box to brush off two white shirts and calmly convert for the sixth successive game in the colours of his country.
Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos came close to building on that lead before the break, but the advantage remained a slender one heading into the interval.
Beckham's big moment then arrived at the start of the second half, with the former Three Lions skipper stepping off the bench to draw level with Moore as England's most-capped outfield player.
The hosts showed no signs of letting up as the game got under way once more, with Ramos' buccaneering breaks threatening much but delivering little.
As is custom in such games, substitutions then began to break up the fluidity, with fresh faces taking their time to grow accustomed to the pace of proceedings and only succeeding in slowing it down.
One man who continued to illuminate the game, even during the slight lulls, was Xavi, with the Barcelona man's vision and passing ability keeping Terry and co on their toes.
England's defence were able to rest a little easier once Torres joined the already departed Villa on the bench, with Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez also likely to have been among those glad to see the baby-faced striker trudge off.
However, Fabio Capello's side continued to do themselves few favours with their inability to retain the ball for prolonged periods and invited Spain to push forward at every given opportunity.
Such a cavalier approach did leave holes at the back, though, and Wright-Phillips fired into the midriff of Pepe Reina at the end of flowing England counter attack.
Frank Lampard also worked the Liverpool keeper with a firm header 15 minutes from time, but his effort lacked direction and was easily kept out.
Carlton Cole then came on in place of Agbonlahor to win his first cap, but the towering West Ham striker was unable to replicate his recent fine form at club level.
It was, instead, another second half substitute who wrapped up the game with seven minutes left on the clock.
Llorente, who had entered the game in place of Torres, justified his billing as one of Europe's hottest properties with a thumping header from a Xavi free-kick.Cole did see a sliding effort cleared off the line by the backtracking Carlos Marchena as timed ticked away, but England never looked like rescuing a positive result.
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||4|
|2||Shots off Target||4|