Late leveller seals point for Lions
Sunday, 12 June, 2011
Danny Welbeck strikes to earn a point against Spain.
By Jamie Bradbury in Herning
Danny Welbeck scored a crucial late goal in Herning as England came from behind to draw 1-1 with Spain in their opening match of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
It will no doubt provide Stuart Pearce’s team with a huge boost of confidence ahead of their meeting with Ukraine on Wednesday, after seeing a very lively Spanish side enjoy much of the ball but also restricted to limited opportunities.
And they also showed their never-say-die spirit, as Spain failed to take advantage of their possession and 14th-minute lead, given to them by Real Zaragoza’s Ander Herrera.
So when Welbeck, who’d worked tirelessly throughout, found himself unmarked ten yards out after being picked out by Kyle Walker, he tucked away past David de Gea to earn England a vital point.
Welbeck almost carved out an opening for himself in the first five minutes when he put pressure on de Gea following a poor backpass, but the Atletico Madrid keeper just managed to deal with the danger.
Spain were controlling possession, with Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez dictating play from midfield, with the Barcelona man confident enough to play most of his passes while looking the other way.
And it was in the 14th minute that they made their dominance count, but in an area England, with their physical defensive presence, would be disappointed to concede from.
A corner from the left was swung in and Martinez rose unmarked to nod towards the back post where Herrera arrived to guide in between Tom Cleverley and the post. An early set-back and England were trailling.
A bursting run on the right from Walker then set up England’s best move, playing in Cleverley to cross but de Gea claimed with ease.
It brought England into the game more and moments later Danny Rose had a chance following Danny Sturridge’s cross, but he blazed into the crowd with his left foot – though he was also just offside.
Yet the Spain threat was never far away and when England lost the ball on the half-way line, Adrian was set free down the middle by Herrera, but Chris Smalling outmuscled the Deportivo forward.
Rose, who had been one of England’s brightest players, fizzed in a dangerous cross following a neat move on the left involving Ryan Bertrand and Welbeck, but Sturridge flying in couldn’t turn it home.
Sturridge then delivered in from the same side after a pass from Rose into the channel, but despite Welbeck’s leap, the Manchester United striker couldn’t connect. Sturridge then fired an effort into the near post after cutting in from the right in the final minute of the half, but again de Gea was untroubled.
But de Gea showed just why he’s one of Europe’s most highly rated young keepers with a fine finger-tip save moments before the half-time whistle. Walker again found joy with his pace on the right and drilled in a low cross for Sturridge, but it was his marker, Alberto Botia, who got the touch that looked to be sneaking in until de Gea saved.
England looked to impose themselves further after the break but it was Spain who had a great opportunity to extend their lead with ten minutes of the second half played.
Herrera looking for his second of the game shot goalwards, the ball deflected off Phil Jones and looked to be heading towards the top corner until Frank Fielding’s acrobatic save kept it out.
Pearce made two changes midway through the half with Henri Lansbury and Jack Rodwell coming in for Rose and Michael Mancienne.
Sturridge was now playing as England’s only outlet, but was twice played in by dangerous passes, first from Rodwell on the left and then from Cleverley down the middle, but he was crowded out on both occasions.
Pearce’s last throw of the dice was by bringing on Scott Sinclair, fresh from a Wembley hat-trick, in place of Cleverley with ten minutes remaining, but they needed to get the ball first.
However, for all of their possession, Spain were not getting in behind Pearce’s men with Smalling and Jones marshalling superbly well. They did manage to get a shot off though, when Juan Mata worked Fielding from 20 yards and the Derby man looked comfortable as the ball skidded off the turf.
Then England levelled with two minutes left, Welbeck tucking away following an excellent run from Walker on the right.
England were now looking to snatch an unlikely victory going into injury time, as Rodwell and Sturridge both had pot-shots, but neither made de Gea sweat.
In the end though, England may have been out-passed, but they weren’t out-scored or out-classed and will be happy with a point from game one.