A new era of English football took place tonight as the national team were coached for the first time by a foreigner - Sven-Goran Erikkson. Despite fans reservations regarding having a non-English leader for the team, the result and performance by the team at Villa Park will hopefully help change the feelings of those supporters who were disappointed with the FA's decision to appoint a foreign national.
Erikkson introduced some new faces to the England squad when he met with his players four days prior to this friendly, and he decided to give Charlton Athletic's Chris Powell his first cap in this game, and the defender made sure that the new England coach has another player to consider for his squad for the next World Cup qualifier in late March.
After a slow start to the game, England started to gel together and made some good passes during the first half, showing how well they can play football. Powell maked some good attacking runs down the wing but Spain were able to keep England's offence at bay. Thirty minutes passed before the first corner of the game, which went to England. Beckham's kick went to his Manchester United team-mate, Nicky Butt, put his header was saved by Casillas. Minutes later Beckham played a nice ball to Scholes on the edge of the area, who flicked it on to Owen, but Casillas charged out of his goal to collect the ball.
With 38 minutes on the clock, Nick Barmby got his second international
goal, his first since Glenn Hoddle's reign. Owen flicked on a lovely ball over Spain's defence to a charging Barmby, who slotted the ball in the net, despite Casillas racing towards him. England were off to a great start in Birmingham.
Spain tried to equalise before the break but Urzaiz's attempt five minutes before the whistle was off target. Then Andy Cole tried to give the home team a comfortable lead at the interval but whilst his shot was not collected by Spain's goalkeeper, the ball was cleared on the re-bound. Right before the end of the first half Owen almost scored but Casillas tipped the ball over the bar.
Erikkson was true to his word at the start of the second half, by making several substitutions. Frank Lampard was one of the half-time changes, and almost scored just after the break but his shot went marginally wide. Spain also made some changes, and fresh legs from Moreno saw the Spaniard eager to try to level
the score when he headed to ball towards England's goal but Nigel Martyn, who replaced James, made the save.
Heskey increased England's lead after 53 minutes when the ball was played ahead of Casillas and the Liverpool striker was on hand to put the ball in the net. With Spain's defence struggling, England were able to create chances to score more goals. Spain's forwards did not provide a significant threat to England's defence and Ugo Ehiogu put the home side 3-0 up on 70 minutes, when half-time substitute, Frank Lampard's, corner found Ehiogu unmarked for the Middlesbrough player to score his first international goal with a header.
The game appeared to be drifting to a close, but with 12 minutes remaining the referee awarded Spain a penalty after it appeared that Moreno was brought down in the area. Nigel Martyn became a hero as he saved the spot
Whilst this was a good performance by England, fans should not forget that this was friendly, Spain were without several starters and that Spain are below par at the moment. That said, however, the future for England under Erikkson is looking much better.
James (Martyn 46 mins), P Neville (G Neville 77 mins), Powell (McCann 46 mins), Butt (Lampard 46 mins), R Ferdinand (Ball 46 mins), Campbell, Beckham (Heskey 46 mins), Scholes (Ehiogu 46 mins), Andy Cole, Owen, Barmby.
Subs Not Used: Brown, Phillips, Sheringham, Fowler, Carragher, Wright, Ashley Cole, J Cole. (Full Squad)
Cassilas (Canizares 75 mins), Manuel Pablo, Romero, Guardiola (J Etxeberria 80 mins), Abelardo (Javi Moreno 46 mins), Mendieta, Raul (Baraja 81 mins), Enrique (Sergi 65 mins), Urzaiz Aranda (Paco 46 mins), Helguera (Victor 78 mins), Unai.
Subs Not Used: Unknown.
England Goals: Barmby (38 mins), Heskey (54 mins), Ehiogu (70 mins)
Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece)