Aspas, Isco deny Southgate’s England victory


London (AFP) – Substitute Isco struck deep in stoppage time to earn Spain a 2-2 draw and deprive Gareth Southgate of victory in his final game as England interim manager on Tuesday.

Goals from Adam Lallana and Jamie Vardy had set England up for an impressive win, but Spain debutant Iago Aspas reduced the arrears in the 89th minute before Isco levelled with practically the last kick.

Southgate, who lost Lallana to injury in the first half, cursed his luck on the touchline, but having gone four games unbeaten since replacing Sam Allardyce, the job is still expected to be his full-time.

While victory eluded England at the last, the vibrant nature of their performance at Wembley will help to erase lingering memories of their Euro 2016 humiliation by Iceland.

Isco’s 96th-minute strike extended Julen Lopetegui’s unbeaten record to six games since he succeeded Vicente del Bosque as Spain coach in the aftermath of their Euro 2016 exit at Italy’s hands.

Vardy won the early penalty that yielded England’s opening goal, but he was perhaps fortunate to still be on the pitch.

With less than five minutes on the clock, the Leicester City star followed through after clearing the ball downfield and caught Cesar Azpilicueta high on the Chelsea defender’s right shin.

But Romanian referee Ovidiu Alin Hategan kept his cards in his pocket and within four minutes he was pointing to Spain’s penalty spot.

After Jesse Lingard robbed Thiago Alcantara, Lallana curved a gorgeous pass into the box from the right and despite a heavy first touch, Vardy succeeded in drawing a foul from goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

– Vardy does the Mannequin –

Reina went the right way from the penalty, to his left, but Lallana put enough height on the ball to register his third goal in three England outings.

The fates were to conspire against the Liverpool midfielder midway through the first half, however, as injury forced him off, with Theo Walcott coming on in his place.

Shy of a mishit Vitolo shot, Spain had failed to trouble England and Lopetegui changed tack on the half-hour, ditching his initial 3-5-1-1 system for a more conventional 4-1-4-1.

But the traffic remained one-way in the second half and after Walcott had seen a shot deflected into the side-netting, England made it 2-0 in the 48th minute.

Stand-in captain Jordan Henderson’s cross from the right was met with a brilliant diving header from Vardy, who had previously gone 14 games without scoring for club and country.

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