9th September, 2018
It was the first game for both England and Spain in the newly introduced UEFA Nations League. Both countries are grouped in League A, Group 4. The first match was played between both teams at the Wembley Stadium.
And so, England were the hosts on Saturday, September 8, 2018. The result however was not what the home fans had expected. The home team lost to the visitors 1-2.
So, what went wrong? Still difficult to say for now. The home team as usual played a 3-5-2 formation with Harry Maguire, John Stones and Joe Gomez played in front of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Jordan Henderson played deep in the midfield with support from Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli Kieran Trippier on the right and Luke Shaw on the left were the wing-backs, and in the attack was captain Harry Kane supported by Marcus Rashford.
The visitors from Spain had a slightly different formation as they played in a 4-3-3 set-up. David De Gea as usual was in goal with Sergio Ramos and Nacho in front of him, and Marcos Alonso on the left and Dani Carvajal on the right covering the defensive flanks.
Sergio Busquets anchored the midfield while Saul Niguez and Thiago Alcantara played further up. Iago Aspas led the line upfront, flanked by Isco and Rodrigo. The first half of the match was a cautious one for both teams as they sized each other out.
Spain had its first chance in the 7th minute but the home team warded it off brilliantly.
Then came the first goal of the match and it was England that scored. A good pass from Henderson to his captain, Harry Kane who sent a pass through to Luke Shaw on the left flank. Just like he does at his club on a good day, Shaw produced a superb low cross for his Manchester United team mate Rashford who slammed the ball past another club teammate – De Gea into the visitors’ net.
The home crowd ecstatic as they applauded this heart-warming goal. However, the celebration was short-lived as Spain hit back just two minutes later. Rodrigo on the right wing provided a well timed assist for Saul Saul whose shot from around 15 yards hit the near-bottom corner and beat Pickford.
Even though the pace of Rashford continued to give the Spanish defence line lots of discomfort, not much came out of it and the visitors got into the game better especially on the right flank where Carvajal and Rodrigo continued to combine very well.
Then came the second goal for the Spaniards. Referee Danny Makkelie gave a foul against Trippier on Alonso near the touch-line.
Thiago sent in a low cross right to the edge of six yards from where it was a simple tap-in for Rodrigo. The Valencia forward escaped the attention of John Stones, ran past Kane, and Gomez wasn’t quick enough to beat him to the ball.
England was jolted by that goal and did everything to quickly redeem themselves with Henderson trying to find Alli in the box but a very alert Carvajal cleared it out for a corner. De Gea then went on to produce a fine save to deny Rashford’s header from a great chance.
In the second half of the game, England got an unexpected extra challenge as Carvajal collided with Luke Shaw resulting in the England defender having to be stretchered off the field of play to be replaced by Danny Rose.
Spain continued to gradually up their domination of the game as Alonso sent the ball across the box finding Thiago completely free at 15 yards but the midfielder somehow volleyed the ball over the bar.
England threatened the Spanish defence now and then with the closest to a goal coming from Kane and Rashford as they combined well and the United forward burst into the box and hit a powerful shot, but it went straight at De Gea.
A few minutes later, the Spanish goalkeeper once again denied Rasford in a great position with a superb save, though the offside flag had been raised.
England did manage to score a goal after Welbeck came in as replacement for Rashford in the added time of the game, but it was disallowed. The Arsenal forward had managed to put the ball into the net after a Ramos’ blunder, but the referee rightly disallowed the goal for a foul on De Gea.
The teams’ line-up and ratings:
ENGLAND: Pickford 6.5, Gomez 6.5, Stones 7, Maguire 6.5, Henderson 6.5 (64′ Dier 6.5), Alli 6, Lingard 5.5, Trippier 6.5, Shaw 7 (54′ Rose), Rashford 7.5 (90’+2 Welbeck N/A), Kane 7.
SPAIN: De Gea 7.5, Ramos 6.5, Nacho 7, Carvajal 7, Alonso 7, Busquets 7.5, Thiago 7.5 (80′ S. Roberto N/A), Saul 7.5, Isco 7, Rodrigo 8, Aspas 5.5 (68′ Asensio 6.5).
GOALS: Rashford 11′, Saul 13′, Rodrigo 32′.