Spain cut England down to size


SEVILLE, February 11 – Spain handed England a sharp reminder of the limits of the progress they have made under Fabio Capello by strolling to a 2-0 friendly victory here on Wednesday.

SPAINGoals from David Villa and second-half substitute Fernando Llorente delivered the victory and the margin was a fair reflection of their comfortable superiority.

On a night that saw David Beckham equal the late Bobby Moore’s mark of 108 caps — the record for an outfield player — England were given an indication of how far they still have to go if they are to mix it with the best at next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.

Fabio Capello’s men were never completely over-run but it was hard to resist the feeling that the Euro 2008 champions had another gear in reserve that they were never required to find.

The confidence engendered by a 28-match unbeaten run that had featured 26 victories was apparent as Spain began pinging their passes around from the kick-off.

It was England, however, who conjured up the first moments of real menace in what was to prove their most encouraging phase of the match.

Released by Ashley Cole’s fine pass, Gareth Barry found Gabriel Agbonlahor with a cross that the Aston Villa star volleyed fractionally wide of Iker Casillas’s right-hand post on five minutes, and John Terry went almost as close with an unchallenged header from Stewart Downing’s corner soon afterwards.

Spain’s first shot on goal, from Fernando Torres, looped over the bar via Glen Johnson’s shin and David James was equally untroubled by a tame long-range effort from Marcos Senna.

England endured a real scare midway through the half, however, when Villa latched on to Andres Iniesta’s threaded pass and side-footed past James, only for his effort to be chalked off because of a debatable offside flag.

Shaun Wright-Phillips trickery earned England a freekick on the edge of the area but Downing’s strike failed to clear the wall and the visitors found themselves behind shortly afterwards.

Having turned Everton centreback Phil Jagielka inside out just inside the 18-yard line, Villa was once again left with only James to beat and this time there was no linesman’s flag to curtail the celebrations in the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium.

Buoyed by the goal, Spain gradually began to assert their superiority and James breathed a sigh of relief as Xavi Alonso’s drive whistled past his post before being tested by a ferocious half-volley from Sergio Ramos.

Beckham’s entry to the fray came at the interval with Downing making way and Wright-Phillips switching to the left flank to allow the 33-year-old to slot into his familiar berth on the right of midfield.

A dangerous, dipping freekick soon provided evidence of the added value Capello sees in him but Beckham’s inability to get up and down the pitch as he did in his peak years was also painfully apparent.

England did muster a few threatening moves after the interval with Wright-Phillips cutting in from the left to test Jose Reina before Frank Lampard nodded Agbonlahor’s cross into the Liverpool goalkeeper’s arms.

Another substitute, Carlton Cole, also had a half-chance at an equaliser but the West Ham striker snatched at Johnson’s cross and the ball flew high over the bar.

Spain quickly ended any doubt about the outcome, Llorente nodding in a Xavi freekick although England came desperately close to pulling a late goal back when Beckham released Cole, who rounded Reina but saw his attempted finish blocked on the line.