England sucker-punch downs Spain

England sucker-punch downs Spain

Spain, who had not lost to England for 10 years, dominated possession and territory throughout but were frustrated by a superb English defensive effort as the home side clung on for the win yesterday.

Lampard's winner came on 49 minutes when the Chelsea midfielder headed in from close range after Darren Bent's effort from a James Milner free-kick spun back off the post.

Goalscorer Lampard paid tribute to England's team spirit but said the squad were keeping their feet on the floor.

"For everyone it is a lift, but we have to be realistic. We know they dominated the game for long periods," Lampard said in an interview on ITV1.

"We won't be shouting from the rooftops. We understand football.

"We are not quite where we want to be just yet, but to beat a side like Spain is something we can definitely build upon."

Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque was frustrated after the defeat.

"I'm a bit disappointed and almost angry that we didn't win the game," Del Bosque said. "But I can take lots of positives ...

"We took the initiative, we held the initiative, we didn't let England get out of their half.

We just missed that skillful defining moment," he said.

The result was a vindication for England manager Fabio Capello, who had taken the risky decision to leave captain John Terry on the bench and dropped Wayne Rooney from his squad altogether.

Capello had fielded a new-look side with Manchester United's Phil Jones playing out of position in midfield and an untried international centre-half partnership of Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka.

For the most part Capello's gambles paid off, with England maintaining their shape and discipline against technically superior opposition.

A low-key first half saw Spain dominate as expected, pinning England back deep inside their own half with their relentless pressing game.

Despite the intelligent movement of Spain's attacking players, England's defence held firm, with Lescott excelling at centre-back alongside his former Everton team-mate Jagielka.

In midfield, Scott Parker and Jones worked tirelessly to disrupt Spain's silky passing game, with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva probing menacingly throughout the opening 45 minutes.

Yet a sell-out Wembley crowd of 87,189 had to wait until the 32nd minute before the first shot on goal from either side, which came from a rare English foray into Spanish territory when Lampard let fly from 25 yards.

Spain responded immediately when a swift break ended with Silva shooting from a tight angle only to see his shot comfortably gathered by Joe Hart.

Four minutes later Spain threatened again, when Silva slipped a lovely reverse pass to Iniesta whose shot was blocked by the excellent Lescott.

Neither side threatened in the closing moments of the half, which were notable only for James Milner's booking for a clumsy challenge on Ramos.

Del Bosque made a raft of changes at the interval, introducing Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata and Pepe Reina for Xavi, Silva and Iker Casillas and it was as the new men were finding their feet that England scored.

Milner swung in a teasing free-kick from wide on the left and Bent steered a downward header goalwards. The Aston Villa striker's effort spun off a post and Lampard was there to nod in at close range.

Silva missed a glorious opportunity to equalise shortly afterwards when he latched onto a long ball and rounded Hart only to shoot tamely into the side netting with the goal at his mercy.

The first signs of frustration from Spain came soon afterwards when first Ramos was booked for an ugly challenge on Bent and then Fabregas joined him on a yellow with a wild aerial challenge on Jagielka.

Capello meanwhile reshuffled his pack, bringing on Gareth Barry for Lampard and Everton youngster Jack Rodwell for Jones.

Bent departed for Manchester United's Danny Welbeck soon afterwards to give England an even more youthful look.

Rodwell and Welbeck combined cleverly moments later to send Rodwell racing through only for Alba to cover desperately and force a save from Reina.

With England digging in to protect their lead, Spain almost equalised on 73 minutes but Villa's volley struck the post with Hart beaten.

Spain laid siege to the England goal in the final 10 minutes, and Fabregas squandered a glorious opportunity to level it late on, when he screwed a low shot wide of the post.