Spain 1-2 England: Lionesses make it nine unbeaten as both prepare for next Summer

Two goals in two minutes were enough for England to claim a narrow 2-1 win over Spain

Goal, Goal, Gol!

After a tame opening fourteen minutes the game exploded into the life on the quarter hour as Karen Carney picked up Demi Stokes' pass to take it to the by-line. With Nikita Parris hovering around the back-post her cross to the Man City attacker was hugely deflected by Marta Torrejón, the captain’s interception taking the ball beyond her keeper and into the far corner.

The Lionesses added a quick-fire second two minutes later after Parris was taken down by a sliding Andrea Pereira just outside the box, Dolores Gallardo unable to do anything about Steph Houghton’s direct free kick. The hosts swiftly back into the game just two minutes later as Jade Moore went into the book for a rash challenge 25 yards out, Torrejón’s direct free kick a sublime effort arced into the top corner giving Karen Bardsley no chance.

After five frantic minutes the keepers and fans were allowed a moment to breath as the ball was knocked around the park, both sides keen to add to their tally, England using the width well with Carney causing problems on both flanks but the hosts stood up well with numbers back. Although the hosts lacked the required fluidity going forward the innate skill in the squad meant La Roja carried a persistent threat and there was no room for complacency in the England backline even with the Lionesses had the ball.

The half finished as it had started, with defence cancelling out attack as England held the edge over their opponents, in possession and ahead on the scoresheet. Jorge Vilda yet to get the best from his team.

The hosts looked brighter after the restart, enjoying more of the ball but still unable to get in behind the well regimented visitors, Jenni Hermoso dancing around the back-line before Alexia Putellas whose first touch took it away from her. Before a flowing move saw Gemma Davison and Carney link to release Jill Scott deep on the right, her cross half-cleared by Leila Ouahabi, Parris’ follow-up header straight into Sandra Paños’ gloves. The Lionesses showing more guile than against France but still playing below their abilities.

¿Dónde están los gols?

The game lacked rhythm, neither side to posses the ball for long enough to work the keepers before it was turned over, neither able to mount a serious attack. Passes strung together but each move snuffed out, if there was to be another goal from open play it seems more like it would be borne of a mistake rather than brilliance. Ouahabi’s 40 yard chip with just too much drop on it making it an easy claim for a well-positioned Bardsley.

Nobbs’ twenty yard turn and shoot left Paños rooted as it arced through the air to slam into the top of the upright, the keeper gratefully grabbing the ball as it came back down to earth. A later corner from Toni Duggan’s deflected effort yet another to add to the list of disappoint set-pieces, both defences coming up trumps at either end of the pitch.

The game stretched in the last ten minutes, as more and more spaces opened up for the attackers, Houghton’s last ditch challenge enough to keep Bardsley covered before the visitors launched another attack. La Roja keen to finish on a high began to pile on the pressure in stoppage time, Bardsley’s deep punch was fired back in for Moore to block the goal-bound effort. Mari Paz Vilas’ close range header just about held by Bardsley as time ran out for the hosts.

After a muted season with Chelsea, Carney was back to her magical best in Spain
After a muted season with Chelsea, Carney was back to her magical best in Spain

Learning curve

A late surge from Spain in a muted game, the team still unable to fulfill their potential. The game was scrappy but for a team that possesses the ability of La Roja they should be far more dangerous going forward, Jenni Hermoso disconnected from her team for most of the match. For Mark Sampson’s Lionesses it was another ticked box, another win to stretch their unbeaten streak and but another learning experience.

Keeping Spain quiet for most of the game and only conceding from an unsaveable free kick, but still the familiar problems were there in attack – although much improved from the France game, that has more to do with Spain than England. There is still an unfamiliar feel to the attack, neither Rachel Daly nor Nikita Parris are recognised number nines, both better wide although Parris boasts the burst of pace to get beyond defences Daly becomes nullified if stranded.

These kinds of matches aren’t about trouncing the opposition or even about securing a win, as much as learning about yourselves, identifying problems before major tournaments so you have time to fix them. Based on this both Vilda and Sampson have much to do.