It was an unfortunate start to 2009 for the Young Lions as they lost against an impressive Spain side.
England 0-3 Spain
U19 International Friendly
7.00pm, Tuesday 10 February 2009
Dean Court, AFC Bournemouth
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The Young Lions made an unfortunate start to 2009 on the South Coast, as they were comprehensively beaten by an impressive looking Spanish team at Dean Court.
England always knew this would be a difficult test against one of the world’s best nations at youth level and that was exactly how it proved in front of a sell out crowd who were treated to an entertaining game which seemed to have it all, with three goals, some neat football from both teams before an unfortunate late sending off for England.
With another game in March against Czech Republic before England host the Elite Round of qualification for the European U19 Championship, Head Coach Brian Eastick will take the positives out of the game which saw a number of debuts at this level and some good individual performances.
However, he won’t have been pleased with the start England made, as they found themselves behind after only five minutes with what was undoubtedly an avoidable goal. With the Young Lions in possession in their own half, defender Gavin Hoyte played a back pass to Alex Smithies, who was quickly closed down by Jose Luis San Martin. Under pressure, Smithies missed his kick and the ball rolled past him and back off the foot of the post. San Martin reacted quickly and laid the ball off nicely for Iago Falqué to slot home into an empty net and give the visitors a perfect start.
The Young Lions hit back though and began to enjoy more of the possession and the better of the play after that early setback.
Firstly, captain Henri Lansbury tested Diego Mariño in the Spanish goal with a bouncing shot from 25 yards moments after the opener and then a neatly worked free kick between Lansbury and Jack Wilshere on the right hand side in the 16th minute saw the latter shoot over the bar from just inside the area.
Spain always managed to keep the Lions at arm’s length though and there was nothing England could do about their second goal just after the half hour mark. A ball in from the left was neatly flicked by Juventus winger Falqué into the path of Jordi Pablo and he made no mistake by firing a ferocious right-footer from 25 yards into the top left corner, giving Smithies absolutely no chance whatsoever.
At the other end, another tidy move saw Lansbury pick out Danny Drinkwater in the box but when he laid it off to Wilshere, the Arsenal midfielder’s shot spun wide of the goal.
That was as close as England came in the opening 45 minutes and the first half came to an end with Mariño having not really been tested aside from that early Lansbury shot.
Eastick made one change at the break, introducing Liverpool defender Martin Kelly for his debut in place of Hoyte.
Within two minutes of the restart, Smithies had to make a good save at full stretch to deny Falqué, who hit a low shot from just inside the area after the ball had been knocked back to him by San Martin.
England made a double substitution on the hour mark, with two more debutants joining the action in Andrew Tutte and Martyn Waghorn and they almost made an immediate impact as Drinkwater’s cross from the left was just inches in front of Waghorn before it eventually picked out Kieran Trippier at the far post, but his shot flew into the side netting.
The home side were made to pay for their miss again though, as just one minute later Spain added their third of the night when substitute Raul Ruiz slipped into the box and rolled a shot past Smithies and into the bottom corner to surely seal victory.
It then went from bad to worse for England, as Tutte was shown a red card by referee Stuart Atwell for a challenge on Ruiz, which the Dean Court crowd seemed to think was slightly harsh on the Manchester City player.
Ruiz then taunted England again in the 77th minute when he jinked his way into the box from the right wing before placing a low centre across the face of goal which none of his team-mates had the foresight to anticipate, before Jordan Spence cleared the danger.
With the game into the last ten minutes, Mariño made his best save of the night to tip Jack Rodwell’s header over the bar as England launched a late flurry.
But it just wasn't to be England's night, although the spirit shown from their late rally will certainly have been noted by Eastick as he tries to plot a path through the next round of Championship qualifying in May.
1 Alex Smithies, 2 Kieran Trippier (15 Kyle Walker, 70) 3 Lee Hills (18 James Reid, 70) 4 Jack Rodwell, 5 Jordan Spence, 6 Gavin Hoyte (12 Martin Kelly, 46), 7 Danny Drinkwater, 8 Dan Gosling (14 Andrew Tutte, 61) 9 Nathan Delfouneso (17 Martyn Waghorn, 60) 10 Henri Lansbury (c) (16 Ashley Chambers, 78) 11 Jack Wilshere
Substitutes not used
13 Jason Steele
1 Diego Mariño, 2 Mario Gaspar Pérez, 3 Alberto Morgado, 4 Jorge Pulido (15 Carlos Lázaro 77) 5 David Rochela (14 Borja Garcia, 46), 6 Ignacio Camacho (c), 7 Jordi Pablo (16 Carlos Monje, 46) 8 Asier Illarramendi, 9 José Luis San Martín (18 Sergi Enrich, 67) 10 Fran Mérida (17 Raul Ruiz, 46), 11 Iago Falqué (12 Carles Planas, 72)
Substitutes not used
13 Joel Robles
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Assistant Referees: Gary Jerden, Wade Norcott
Fourth Official: Darren Sheldrake