Not since 2003 have Spain lost a competitive match on home soil. Tonight, as Spain and England squared up at the Benito Villamarin in Sevilla, that streak reached its breaking point, as Luis Enrique’s men couldn’t recover after suffering a three-goal deficit in the first half.
Lucho rolled out a strong XI, not surprisingly. If everyone is healthy, Carvajal and Isco probably start over Jonny and Aspas / Rodrigo; but this was a very good line-up for Spain on paper:
Spain played a high-line. They pressed well in advanced positions, while the back-four aimed to mop up any of England’s counters. That worked for a couple defensive sequences early on, but it quickly turned into a problem as England scored three first half goals — all exploiting the defensive line.
On England’s first goal, Jordan Pickford played a perfect outlet-pass to Rashford; while Raheem Sterling made a run on the far-side. No Spanish player was quick enough to recover:
What a way to hit your first away international goal! @England open the scoring in Spain with this emphatic finish from Raheem Sterling!— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) October 15, 2018
Watch Spain v @England live on Sky Sports Football or watch in-game clips and highlights here: https://t.co/u2MyryfVxc pic.twitter.com/Dw0P5L6OuT
On England’s second goal, Harry Kane’s great hold-up play — and pass — finds the cutting Sterling who outgunned Jonny:
GOAL! Marcus Rashford 30' vs Spain pic.twitter.com/1tt1H4A5qD— Stadium Astro (@stadiumastro) October 15, 2018
And, to cap a great half for the English, who defended well and countered efficiently, Ramos and Nacho make a mess of the situation, letting Kane and Rashford behind them on Barkley’s dink:
A lot of credit should go to Southgate’s tactics, here. Their counter-attacking was deadly, and the movement from his front-three was surgical. Spain struggled to find their feet, in truth. In any other game, their mistakes might not get magnified as much, but the margin of error wasn’t great in a game like this against an organized side whose trajectory is upward since the appointment of Southgate.
Lucho’s men were able to break England a few times in the first half, mainly through cross-field switches to an open Asensio or through breaking the English press. But England recovered well defensively in the first half. Asensio, who had a lot of touches on the left flank, was mainly hitting a Marcos Alonso overload, cutting in with a shot (not his best shooting day, by any means), or hitting a cross which was either blocked or picked off easily by Maguire or Gomez.
Diego Costa, who wasn’t in the squad here, is generally and awkward fit with Spain, but his presence would’ve at least helped provide a target in a game like this. Maybe that’s why Paco Alcacer made an immediate impact off the bench. Apart from being on fire, and scoring an absurd goal-per-three-seconds this season (by my math), he took advantage of some poor marking at the near post to make it 3 - 1:
245 minutes, 10 shots, 10 goals.. Valverde has bloods in his hands for not giving chances and not keeping Paco Alcacer pic.twitter.com/OsyFniu2el— Oluwaseyi (@Shexxilona) October 15, 2018
Though Spain continued to attack throughout the second half (they outshot England 23 - 5, hit the post, came close on multiple occassions, had a penalty shout, and had more than 70% possession), a last-second goal from Ramos to make it 2 - 3 was as close as they would come.
We’ll break this down further on tonight’s Churros y Tácticas Podcast.