England inspired by Lallana
Midfielder hits creative spark for country and club
(Adam Lallana 9-pen, Jamie Vardy 48)
(Iago Aspas 89, Isco Rodriguez 90+6)
Once Gareth Southgate is handed the poisoned chalice marked "England manager", he should send notes of gratitude to both Mauricio Pochettino and Juergen Klopp.
They gave him an attacking system to tinker with. Most of all, they gave him a player. And what a player Adam Lallana is becoming.
He lasted just 27 minutes at Wembley yesterday morning (Singapore time), but each minute felt like a stepping stone towards something greater.
Hype has long elevated and subsequently crushed the English spirit, but the midfielder has folks who really should know better daring to dream again.
The Three Lions and Liverpool are singing from the same hymn sheet. They're all living in Lallana land.
The pre-match build-up focused on another Reds and England forward, but Daniel Sturridge's non-selection probably confirmed what Klopp already knows.
The wayward Red appears destined for the transfer window. Lallana, on the other hand, seems bound for glory.
His half-hour cameo felt like a throwback not only to a different era, but also a different country.
He danced like a Spaniard. His movement was more flamenco, than rolled-up sleeves and other English bulldog cliches.
Lallana's game is built on a rare intelligence that, frankly, is distinctly un-English.
His attacking instincts are continental and it no longer appears coincidental that his career went stratospheric only when two pioneering, foreign coaches intervened.
Five years ago, when Spain and Barcelona dominated every competition worth winning, Lallana was toiling in League One with Southampton.
By the time he made his England debut in 2013, his Saints manager was Pochettino. The pair were a match made in tactical heaven.
Pochettino's fluent counter-surging depended not only on fleet of foot, but also speed of thought.
It was a cerebral system that suited Lallana's style.
And Klopp has taken the midfielder's brain and surrounded it with brawn. Liverpool's silky steeliness has driven the club to the top of the standings, with Lallana leading the way.
His understated, assured progress from a slightly erratic maverick to confident, inventive architect reached greater heights at Wembley.
He started and ended the move of the game - perhaps even the move of many of England's games in 2016 - with a stunning bit of vision.
After nine minutes, he collected the ball on the right and spun away from any unwanted attention.
In those nanoseconds that separate the elite from the also-runs, he spotted Jamie Vardy's run towards the box.
The low, raking, curled pass around Inigo Martinez was the sort of thing the Spaniards do, the kind of ball expected from Barcelona. The pass was that good.
Vardy was subsequently brought down and Lallana rightfully put away the penalty, while the audience subconsciously doubted the validity of his passport.
He didn't look English. At least, he didn't resemble a recent Englishman.
Those nifty turns into hidden pockets of space triggered hazy memories of Paul Gascoigne and perhaps Glenn Hoddle and Trevor Brooking.
It's both a tribute to the English Premier League's multi-culturalism and an indictment of England's coaching system that a player of Lallana's undoubted pedigree was misused or unappreciated for so long.
He was still playing League One football at 23. When he finally made his international breakthrough, there was a nagging sense that the hapless Roy Hodgson never quite appreciated his midfielder's assets.
Lallana went 26 England games without scoring. He was a bit-part player. In Spain, they might have built the team around him.
Now the 28-year-old has three goals in as many games and is the obvious creative fulcrum in a world without Wayne Rooney, should it ever come to pass.
Southgate certainly can't take the credit for Lallana's late blossoming. The midfielder's success has two fathers - Pochettino and Klopp.
Those managers instinctively recognised and understood his rare qualities.
Lallana helped Pochettino make his reputation in England. He could yet help Klopp win his first English title.
Ironically, Southampton and Liverpool meet at St Mary's on Saturday and Lallana shouldn't miss out on a happy homecoming.
After being overrun in the early exchanges, Thiago Alcantara kicked the English maverick hard enough to bring his star turn to an abrupt end at Wembley.
But the ankle injury is expected to heal in time for the Saints trip.
Klopp would feel justifiably aggrieved if his playmaker didn't recover.
Lallana was born in England, but built by an Argentinian and then finessed with German efficiency.
The Three Lions job wasn't the only thing that fell into Southgate's lap. His best player did, too.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Martin Keown on England’s defence:
England’s centre halves struggled to play the ball out from the back against Scotland, and it was clear they had been given a different remit — to play the ball longer. This proved quite effective against Spain as it meant we could bypass the congested midfield and give Jamie Vardy something to chase.
Jamie Redknapp on England’s midfield:
So many teams sit back against Spain, but you die a slow death playing that way. Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana, before he went off, put Spain under pressure when they had the ball. At times, England made them look very pedestrian.
Chris Sutton on England’s attack:
Those who have written off Jamie Vardy this season should think again. The Leicester striker offers a greater threat than any other England centre forward on the counter-attack
Southgate: I proved my worth
Interim England manager Gareth Southgate says he has proved his worth and wants his future at the helm to be decided swiftly.
Southgate's (left) comments came after two late Spain goals denied England victory in a friendly yesterday morning (Singapore time), marking the end of his four-game stint at the helm.
During his tenure, England won two games and drew two, scoring seven goals and conceding two.
"I've proved I can manage big matches... I can tactically, with the help of my staff, prepare a team to play against a top side and give them a tough test," he said after the 2-2 draw at Wembley.
The 46-year-old, who was handed temporary charge after Sam Allardyce was sacked on Sept 27, said he had introduced stability to the team after England's disappointing European Championship campaign.
"I took over at a moment of instability for everybody, and we've brought stability back and built a platform for the team," he added.
"Without doubt, the longer you work with any team, with any group, you have the chance to embed more ideas, review each game and learn from it. The players are bullish about how they want to play."
Southgate, who was in charge of England's Under-21s before being elevated to senior manager, urged the Football Association to decide his future quickly.
"We've got a European Under-21 Championship next summer... so I need to know where I'm going to park my car for the next few weeks," he said.
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui, who like Southgate once managed his country's Under-21 team, spoke highly of the progress he believes England have already made.
"Their plans were working better than ours," said the 50-year-old.
"We could see they were utilising the space we were leaving for them and things weren't easy. The penalty was a really good example of that. They were better than us at the start.
"(Southgate's) already working very, very well. You can see his team: they are fast, have quality, a good mentality, and are good tactically. I hope for the best for him and the England team." - Wire Services.
Report card on Southgate
In three World Cup qualifiers, the 46-year-old gathered seven points from a possible nine, albeit against moderate opponents in Malta, Slovenia and Scotland.
The fact that Southgate safely navigated those games to leave the Three Lions top of Group F and well on course for the 2018 World Cup will count in his favour.
Victory over Spain would have been the icing on the cake and put him in a huge position of strength, but two late goals meant Southgate's temporary deal ended with an entertaining draw.
That is unlikely to harm his claim much, though, with plenty of positives to draw from the performance.
It would perhaps be unfair to judge Southgate for his first two matches against Malta and Slovenia, given the short time he had with the team.
He had minimal time to impose his style on the side and it would be more instructive to look at the games versus Scotland and Spain.
In those outings, it became overwhelmingly clear that 4-2-3-1 would be Southgate's natural tendency, with a heavy emphasis on progressive, passing football from the back.
Split centre halves, fullbacks driving high up the field and Eric Dier providing a fluid link between defence and midfield all seem to be key tenets.
Arguably, Southgate began to look like he was ready to fill the chair as soon as he resolved to drop Wayne Rooney in his second match at the helm.
England were ultimately outplayed in the subsequent 0-0 draw in Ljubljana but, by doing what Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce seemingly felt unable to, removing the team's biggest star in service of the team, he showed an admirably decisive streak.
The former Middlesbrough boss is a break from the mould for England.
Not as detached as Hodgson nor as bombastic as Allardyce, Southgate has portrayed himself as a thinker on the game and won a lot of admirers when he declared he loved football but disliked the industry around it.
His well-formed aphorism that "football is about people who play and people who pay" summed up his outlook neatly. - PA Sport.