England 2-2 Spain: Iago Aspas and Isco shake off the pessimism
Wembley draw showcases dramatic effect of the late goal
In football, there's nothing to match the reactions that greet a crucial last-gasp goal. There's no joy quite like it for the fans of the side who score it, and little to console the team on the end of it. Against England at Wembley, we saw proof of that once more. Spain had put in a dreadful display that improved only in the very final stages, during which Iago Aspas, who had given a performance brimming with faith since coming on, netted a stunning strike. A fabulous effort, but one that would have had no greater effect than to put a gloss on a deserved defeat - had it not sparked a late Spanish charge that culminated in Isco equalising with the last kick of the game. Ignominy gave way to elation.
In the hosts' national media, meanwhile, the response was damning. If it had been a regulation 2-2 draw from a closely-fought game, it would have gone down better. But that wasn't the case at all: England had dominated, had had Spain at their mercy, had for much of the evening set about boosting the morale of their support, and had looked to be turning the page on all their recent disasters: THAT exit from Euro 2016, the Sam Allardyce affair... When Jamie Vardy did his 'Mannequin Challenge' celebration after heading in England's second (having earned the penalty for the opener), he seemed to reflect that optimism. But yesterday it was an image that became the focus for back-page ridicule.
Comeback suggests Spain banishing post-Brazil fragility
Here in Spain, the fightback offered a great deal of comfort. It doesn't change the poor game La Roja undoubtedly had, but it left Julen Lopetegui's men with a worthy draw and, in particular, with something else: a kind of victory over the pessimism that had reared its ugly head since the World Cup walloping by Holland in 2014. From then on, I'd seen a Spain team that remained a good side, but was fragile to setbacks. That hadn't been the case beforehand. We went on to witness it at the Euros, in the defeat to Croatia, and on a few other occasions in between times. Now, this battling late stalemate doesn't hide their poor display, but - in my view, at least - it offers proof that La Selección's spirit is back.
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