Luke Shaw suffered a horror injury after going from hero to villain in the space of two first-half minutes as Spain rained on England’s Word Cup homecoming parade with a 2-1 victory in an entertaining clash at a sold-out Wembley Stadium.
The Manchester United left-back, making his first start for three years, had another very eventful night. He set up England’s first goal but was responsible for Spain’s leveller and was then wheeled away on a stretcher after an accidental clash with Dani Carvajal.
Shaw, who has been beset by injury, was also booked before half-time.
AS IT HAPPENED: England v Spain
But Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who was watching from the stands alongside Sir Trevor Brooking and Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka, must have been worried early in the second period, when Shaw was inadvertently poleaxed by Carvajal, whose arm appeared to catch the United man who had leaned into a challenge and then fell hard on this head.
Shaw was left prostrate for several minutes and attended by 10 medical staff. After being given oxygen, he was wheeled off on a stretcher and, after a lengthy delay, was treated by the England medics at the stadium, rather than being taken to hospital, and replaced by Danny Rose.
The injury appeared to deflate the 81,392 fans inside Wembley. Until then, the inaugural UEFA Nations League clash had a much better tempo than recent friendlies England have played in, vindicating the concept. The greater urgency early on came from Spain, who kept possession well and had England chasing shadows.
But the hosts went in front against the run of play after 11 minutes after some great work from Jordan Henderson.
The Liverpool captain broke up play and Harry Kane, replete with his Golden Boots, presented to him by Gareth Southgate before the game after his World Cup goalscoring exploits, sent Shaw away down the left on a swift counter-attack. He showed great determination and produced a superb cross for his Old Trafford teammate Marcus Rashford, who had the simplest chance form six yards as he side-footed past United keeper David de Gea.
However, within a matter of two minutes, Spain levelled after a slick move and a superb finish – and Shaw was culpable. The visitors, who suffered a wretched World Cup when knocked out by Russia on penalties in the last 16 stage, worked the ball down the right and had Shaw stood up Daniel Carvajal, the danger may have been averted, but he dived in and was left flailing.
Carvajal allowed Rodrigo to pull the ball back for Saul, who took the ball early on the volley and beat Pickford at his near post, despite the Everton keeper getting a hand to it.
With Luis Enrique taking charge of his first match, new-look Spain, whose 23-man squad contained 12 players with 10 caps or less, deservedly went in front just after the half hour, again punishing England for another defensive mistake.
Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, who was making his first start for his country in three years, won a free-kick on the left wing after Kieran Trippier dived in. Thiago spotted Harry Maguire dropping deep and Rodrigo gambled to beat the off-side trap with a run to the near post, losing his marker Kane, and met the whipped cross, clipping home cleverly on the half-volley.
It was a poor goal from England’s point of view, but they could have gone in level at the break, but for a stunning save by De Gea, who dived to his right to palm a bullet header from Rashford around the post, following a fine ball in from Jesse Lingard.
Rashford spurned England’s best chance in the second half, firing straight at De Gea after a neat move cut open the Spanish defence.
Danny Welbeck had the ball in the net in the sixth minute of added time, but De Gea was adjudged to have been fouled as he dropped the ball following a sliced clearance by Sergio Ramos. Despite the protests, Spain would have rightly been aggrieved had the goal stood.
While England reached the World Cup semi-finals, they again lacked creativity and Tottenham’s Deli Alli was largely anonymous. There were some notable performances, however. Liverpool defender Joe Gomez looked very comfortable playing in a back three with Maguire and John Stones, and Rashford looked lively despite not having much luck in front of goal.
Spain dropped deeper in the last 20 minutes and England could not find a way to break them down. Indeed, the visitors served notice of just how far England need to improve to challenge for major honours. This was a wake-up call.