Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alberto Saiz
# Super Mario
This stunning overhead kick was the highlight of Spain's win over England
Roy Hodgson’s side suffered their first defeat since the World Cup tonight.

MARIO GASPAR’S STUNNING overhead kick set Spain on their way to a 2-0 victory over England in Alicante.

Villarreal right-back Mario headed the only goal on his debut as Spain closed their Euro 2016 qualification campaign with a win in Ukraine but his latest effort is set to live longer in the memory.

Remaining forward from one of the countless, probing attacks launched throughout the 90 minutes by Vicente del Bosque’s men, Mario was picked out by a chipped pass from Cesc Fabregas and swivelled to acrobatically loop the ball past Joe Hart.

Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla was set up by fellow substitute Nolito to finish into the bottom corner six minutes from time, with the full-time score a fair reflection of the home side’s dominance.

England won all 10 of their qualifiers for Euro 2016 but a difficult outing concluded with Manchester United’s Michael Carrick leaving the field on a stretcher with an apparent ankle problem.

Gerard Pique was persistently booed once again by a section of Spain supporters, with the Barcelona centre-back’s goading of Real Madrid and support for Catalan independence lying at the heart of the discontent.

Pique, cheered ironically by the travelling supporters in response to his barracking, almost put his detractors at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez in an awkward position when his 15th minute drive was deflected narrowly wide.

Sergio Busquets flashed a volley past the post when England failed to clear a corner and fellow Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta played a typically delightful through ball for Paco Alcacer to escape the England defence but drag his shot beyond Joe Hart’s far upright.

The hosts had lost Thiago Alcantara to a knock by this stage but it did not affect their fluency or dominance of possession.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa was the next player to come close to opening the scoring when he curled past the top right corner after 31 minutes.

Iker Casillas – preferred to David De Gea in goal for Spain – gathered Fabian Delph’s drive at the second attempt and there was further encouragement for England on the stroke of half-time when Ryan Bertrand, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana combined well for Harry Kane to scuff his shot.

Nolito, the in-form Celta Vigo forward, replaced Iniesta at the interval and added some extra zest to the Spain attack, with Fabregas dropping deeper to dictate play.

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Clear chances remained elusive and Costa’s left-footed strike that was deflected behind by Kyle Walker in the 59th minute was as a result of his own endeavours.

Nolito’s influence made the England right a fruitful area for Spain to attack and overlapping full-back Jordi Alba stung Hart’s palms at the near post after 65 minutes.

Kane, joined on the field by Tottenham team-mate Eric Dier making his international debut from the bench, almost put England in front against the run of play when he was allowed to clatter a 25-yard strike into the advertising hoardings.

But the opening goal came gloriously from a more unlikely source in the form of Mario and Hart stood firm to stop substitute Juan Mata from doubling Spain’s advantage.

England responded with a spell of pressure, with Kane losing his footing when picked out by Dier in the area, but Cazorla had the final word.

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