Captain Frank Lampard's second-half header was enough to earn England victory against world and European champions Spain in a friendly at Wembley.
Lampard, skippering his country in the absence of Chelsea FC club-mate John Terry, stooped to head in one of the simplest goals of his career on 49 minutes. As was expected considering their recent pedigree, Spain, perfect throughout UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying, offered the greater poise on the ball throughout. They predictably pressed hard for an equaliser, Cesc Fàbregas spurning their clearest opening late on, but England stood firm.
"It's important for the squad to find confidence, it's important for the crowd, for the fans," said England manager Fabio Capello. "The most important thing I saw this evening was the performance of [Jack] Rodwell when he played, of [Phil] Jones, of [Danny] Welbeck – really, really good young players. [Kyle] Walker when he played was immediately in the game.
"I think these players will be important for next summer – they played without fear, with personality on the pitch. Physically and technically I can see they are ready to be with the seniors."
Though Lampard's long-range shot was all that Iker Casillas – winning his 126th cap to equal Andoni Zubizarreta's national record – had to deal with during the opening period, England's Joe Hart was no more frequently employed. Sergio Busquets had the best opening prior to the interval, flicking Xabi Alonso's cross over from close range.
Vicente del Bosque made three half-time substitutions and for one of the replacements, Pepe Reina, the first task was to pick the ball out of his net, Lampard nodding in the rebound from less than a metre out after Darren Bent had headed James Milner's free-kick against a post.
David Villa nearly delivered a swift riposte but, having rounded Hart, shot into the side netting. The FC Barcelona man went closer still on 73 minutes, showing superb technique to control on his chest and shoot from the edge of the penalty area; Hart was again beaten but this time the woodwork came to his rescue.
Though Spain kept coming, England, through a mix of defiance and good fortune, most notably when Fàbregas side-footed wide near the end, held on for a victory few would have forecast.
"They set out to stop us taking the initiative," said Del Bosque. "Their tactical plan was carried out perfectly. I'm disappointed, even angry we didn't manage to win, but pleased with the performance. England defended very, very deep from the outset – they had lots of men behind the ball at all times. We'll draw conclusions and learn lessons from this and we'll be ready come the big event next summer."
England: Hart, G Johnson, Lescott, Jagielka, Cole, Walcott (Downing 46), Jones (Rodwell 56), Parker (Walker 85), Milner (A Johnson 76), Lampard (Barry 56), Bent (Welbeck 64).
Spain: Casillas (Reina 46), Arbeloa, Piqué, Ramos (Puyol 74), Jordi Alba, Busquets (Torres 64), Alonso, Xavi (Fàbregas 46), Iniesta (Cazorla 74), Silva (Mata 46), Villa.
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|Fabio Capello (ITA)||Vicente del Bosque (ESP)|
|Frank De Bleeckere (BEL)|