England 2, Spain 2: Gareth Southgate talks up his pedigree for permanent role as Three Lions boss despite Spanish fightback in friendly

 
Ross McLean
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England v Spain - International Friendly
Vardy ended his 14-game goal-drought with a second-half strike (Source: Getty)

England caretaker boss Gareth Southgate insists he has proven he possesses the necessary pedigree to take the Three Lions reins on a permanent basis despite being denied a winning climax to his four-game audition.

Southgate appeared to be heading towards a glorious conclusion to his elongated job interview but was thwarted as a much-changed Spain retaliated and drew level through last-gasp strikes from debutant Iago Aspas and Isco.

The Three Lions had roared into a classy and compelling two-goal lead early in the second period of this friendly as Jamie Vardy added to Adam Lallana’s ninth-minute penalty.

Football Association chiefs now plan to retire and consider their verdict before announcing a full-time successor to Sam Allardyce. Southgate, unbeaten in his four fixtures, remains the overwhelming frontrunner.

“I’ve relished the challenge and I have proven to myself that I can manage big matches and that I can tactically, with the help of my staff, prepare a team to play against a top side and give them a really tough test,” said Southgate.

“I feel that every situation I have been through, which many have been complex and potential powder kegs, I think I’ve coped with very well.

“I’m pleased with how we’ve coped with it all and, more than that, we’ve built some important stability for the group of players within the team.”

England had lost four of their previous five meetings with Spain, but surged into an early lead when recalled former Liverpool stopper Pepe Reina felled Vardy as the Leicester striker attempted to dance around him.

Lallana had created the chance in the first instance, sweeping a sumptuous pass beyond the forlorn slide of centre-half Inigo Martinez, and casually side-footed the spot-kick beyond Reina.

Spain, who made five changes from their World Cup qualifying victory over Macedonia on Saturday, looked to play their usual intricate, possession-based style, but aside from a snatched Vitolo effort were a blunt instrument in the opening period.

England doubled their lead three minutes after the restart. Having pressed the Spanish defence, the Three Lions’ initial threat appeared to have passed only for skipper Jordan Henderson to pick out Vardy at the far post, who sent a diving header fizzing past Reina.

Vardy ended a 14-game goal-drought with that intervention, and moments later he played in substitute Theo Walcott, only for the Arsenal forward’s low drive to be repelled by Reina.

Spain, however, emerged as a more potent attacking threat in the final quarter of the clash and the visitors breached the England defence in the 89th minute as an Aspas curler found the top corner of replacement stopper Tom Heaton’s net.

But having already wasted a gilt-edged chance in stoppage time, Isco levelled in the match’s dying embers as he collected a scooped ball forward and flicked the ball through the legs of Heaton.