England 1, Spain 0
A tale of two posts put the stamp of approval on England’s win over World champions Spain at Wembley.
Four minutes into the second half, Manchester City’s James Milner curled a deliciously teasing free kick from the left deep into the heart of the Spanish box.
Darren Bent rose above Sergio Ramos to get in his header from six yards.
The ball hit the far post and rebounded perfectly across the line for Frank Lampard to celebrate his first game as England captain when he stooped to head home from close range.
With Spain upping the tempo in the second period of the second half, England were saved by the post in the 73rd minute when David Villa’s brilliant falling shot from the left corner of the England box smacked against the far upright as Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart flapped at thin air.
It was the first time England had beaten reigning World champions at home since a 3-1 victory over Argentina in 1978.
Spain’s undoubted class shone through – especially as they strove for an equaliser in the closing stages
But England’s determination and character was more than a match for their illustrious opponents.
What England may have lacked in quality, they more than made up for in solid endeavour.
Nowhere was that more apparent than in defence where centre-backs Phil Jagielka and City’s Joleon Lescott were twin towers of strength.
Left-back Ashley Cole was also a colossus in England’s back line, combining some exquisite tackling with a vital attacking line down the left.
England’s midfield gave Spain’s mercurial forwards little time and space in which to weave their magic, although the visitors were prone to overelaborate on more than one occasion.
Manchester United’s Phil Jones is set for a long and distinguished career in England’s defence, but the 19-year-old produced a competent display as a defensive midfielder.
Milner’s contribution extended beyond his part in England’s goal.
His defensive duties proved as important of those of a more attacking nature, while Lampard’s vastly experienced old head proved vital in calming the younger ones around him.
But few would argue with the choice of Scott Parker as man of the match.
The 31-year-old Tottenham midfield man may have entered the world of international football in the early evening of his professional career, but his strength, workrate and reading of the game make it difficult for England manager Fabio Capello to leave him out of the side.
The goal apart, it was Spain who created the more clear cut chances.
Villa and Cesc Fabregas proved the most profligate culprits for their team.
In the 56th minute, Xabier Alonso’s glorious through ball sent Villa clear on the right side of the England penalty area.
The Barcelona striker rounded Hart, only to hit his shot into the side netting.
Fabregas missed two golden opportunities in the closing stages.
He was denied by Hart’s superb reflex save after his shot from 12 yards had taken a wicked deflection off Jagielka.
The second miss was a howler when he drove wide of a gaping goal from 10 yards after connecting with Villa’s cross from the left.
England skipper Lampard said: “We were very pleased to beat the best team in the world. They had chances, but we showed real spirit.
“We know they had a lot of the game, but our back four were absolutely fantastic.
“We have to be realistic and accept we are not there yet. We won’t be shouting from the rooftops because we have beaten Spain. We have to stay level-headed for the game against Sweden.”
England 1, Spain 0