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International Friendlies: Spain Snatch Draw With England, Buffon Equals European Record
Italy and Germany players in action during an international friendly. (Reuters)
Isco scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time as Spain launched an improbable fightback to snatch a 2-2 friendly draw against England with both their goals coming after the 89th minute at Wembley on Tuesday.
England looked like ending a dismal year with a glimmer of hope as a first-half penalty from Adam Lallana and Jamie Vardy's header after the break gave them a thoroughly deserved two-goal lead.
Yet the comeback began with the home fans already heading for the exits as Iago Aspas cut into the area and thumped the ball into the top corner beginning a nervy retreat from England deep into their own territory.
Isco then stunned the Wembley crowd by hitting the ball through substitute keeper Tom Heaton's legs from a tight angle to deprive England boss Gareth Southgate of a major scalp to end his four-game spell in interim charge.
Despite a disappointing end to England's evening, Southgate remains well-placed to take the England job on a permanent basis and the Football Association may feel an otherwise incisive attacking display against one of the world's big hitters has greased the wheels sufficiently for his appointment.
He has now won two and drawn two of his four games in charge but has steered England through a period of turmoil after Sam Allardyce was forced out 67 days into the job following a newspaper sting and Roy Hodgson quit after a dismal Euro 2016.
"I have loved doing it," he told ITV when asked if he wanted the job.
"But it's not my decision, I think we are proud of what we have done with the team. We were asked to take over a situation in a temporary measure and tonight's performance really was very special."
England opened the scoring after nine minutes when Lallana's inch-perfect pass found Vardy running in behind the Spain defence.
While the Leicester striker's first touch was far from perfect, he managed to knock the ball around advancing Spain keeper Pepe Reina, who took the forward's legs away to concede a penalty that Lallana thumped high into the net.
The Liverpool playmaker has scored in each of his last three games for England, having failed to find the net in his previous 26, but his evening was curtailed midway through the first half when he was forced off through injury.
In his absence, England's threat initially dropped, yet they doubled the lead two minutes into the second half as Vardy ended a 14-game goal drought for club and country with a diving header at the far post from Jordan Henderson's cross.
In another match, World champions Germany and Italy played out an entertaining 0-0 draw in their friendly international on Tuesday with both sides missing a string of chances in their final match of the year.
The Germans, who beat Italy twice this year including in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals following a penalty shootout, were without half a dozen key players - with Toni Kroos, Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil and Jerome Boateng all missing.
In a game which marked Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon earning his 167th cap - equalling the European record - the hosts dominated the encounter but Germany also had their share of chances.
Italy's biggest chance came eight minutes from the end with Andrea Belotti hitting the post with a low shot.
"It was a demanding game, tactically speaking," said Germany coach Joachim Loew. "We managed to draw a lot of conclusions regarding the young players. We did it well for long stretches of the game."
"We have now played six games in a row without conceding a goal so that is also a very positive thing."
Italy, unbeaten at the San Siro, got off to a better start and came close with a lightning quick break but Eder failed to properly connect with a Belotti cutback in the box, leaving Bernd Leno to pick up the loose ball.
The Germans responded with a counter attack of their own and Ilkay Guendogan sent Leon Goretzka through but veteran keeper Buffon, who equalled the European record of Spain's Iker Casillas, reacted quickly to slide in and save.
The hosts, however, kept up the pressure and forward Ciro Immobile thought he had scored when he beat the offside trap to fire past Leno only for his shot to sail narrowly wide.
"The result is acceptable seeing as we played well and gave little to the world champions," Giampiero Ventura, Italy's coach, told reporters.
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