England captain Jordan Henderson admits it was devastating to concede two late goals to draw 2-2 with Spain at Wembley.
England were caught cold by a late Spain comeback but a positive performance at the end of a turbulent year will have only strengthened Gareth Southgate’s grip on the manager’s job.
Few connected with the national team will look back at 2016 with any fondness as a handful of impressive performance were overshadowed by the humiliating European Championship exit to Iceland.
England lurched from one crisis to another as Roy Hodgson’s successor Sam Allardyce left after a mere 67 days, but interim manager Southgate has steadied the ship impressively and looked crestfallen after Isco secured Spain a 2-2 draw deep into stoppage-time.
Adam Lallana’s early penalty and the end of Jamie Vardy’s goal drought had brought a smile to those inside a sold-out Wembley, producing football which will have pleased those in the top echelons of the Football Association.
Such a positive display on top of Friday’s 3-0 win against oldest foes Scotland surely makes Southgate a shoo-in for the job full-time, although the closing stages underlined the work that remains.
Many inside Wembley applauded Liverpool flop Iago Aspas’ stunning 90th-minute strike, but the overriding feeling was dejection as substitute Isco slotted a last-gasp equaliser.“We are devastated because we put a lot of work into it,” Henderson said.
“To concede two like that late on is very disappointing. It is hard to reflect because it is so disappointing.
“I thought we matched them in terms of effort and work-rate. There are a lot of good things to take from it but overall we are disappointed because we should have won.
“In the final third I thought we created some good chances and looked dangerous on the counter-attack and for most of the game we defended well.”
Vardy was pleased, at least, to end a goal drought stretching back to September 10.
“Finally it’s over so let’s hope there are more to come now,” he said.
On interim manager Gareth Southgate, who is being tipped to get the job on a full-time basis, Henderson added: “He has been brilliant.
“He has not changed too much but you’ve seen with the performance we came with a plan which we did down to a T but unfortunately it was not to be at the end of the day.”
Southgate didn’t give too much away afterwards, regarding his future and joked that he was looking for a decision so he knew where to park his car.
“I’ve loved doing it. It’s not my decision,” he said. “We’re proud of what we’ve done in the situation and tonight’s performance was special.
“I’ve proved that I can handle big occasions. Until this run, under this spotlight, and in matches like Friday’s against Scotland under intense pressure, you’re never sure how it is going to be. I’m pleased and I think the remit we were given has been fulfilled.
“I’ve no idea. We’ve got a European Under-21 Championship next summer and the draw is being made next month.
“I need to know where I’m going to park my car for the next few weeks!”