Southgate ready for the big time

It's party time for Jamie Vardy, Raheem Sterling and Theo Walcott (No. 14), as the Leicester striker celebrates by doing the mannequin challenge after heading past Spanish goalkeeper Jose Reina to put England 2-0 up. But two late goals let the visito
It's party time for Jamie Vardy, Raheem Sterling and Theo Walcott (No. 14), as the Leicester striker celebrates by doing the mannequin challenge after heading past Spanish goalkeeper Jose Reina to put England 2-0 up. But two late goals let the visitors share the spoils.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Late slip-ups give Spain 2-2 draw but interim boss says he's proven he can handle the job

LONDON • Gareth Southgate said that he has shown he can handle "big matches" after concluding his four-game tenure as England's interim manager with a 2-2 friendly draw against Spain.

Appointed caretaker manager in the wake of Sam Allardyce's departure, the 46-year-old led England to two wins and two draws in his brief stint at the helm, culminating in Tuesday's result at Wembley.

He has refused to declare an outright interest in the position, which will now be discussed by England's Football Association, but expressed pride at having given a good account of himself.

"I've proved to myself I can manage big matches, that with the help of my staff, I can tactically prepare the team to play a top side and give them a really tough test," Southgate told reporters after the match.

"I feel every situation we've been through - many of which have been complex and potential powder kegs - we've coped with very well.

"This has been a brilliant experience. I've thoroughly enjoyed working with the players. I can see the potential of the group. We've brought stability back and built a platform for the team to push forward."

Media reports suggest Southgate, formerly England's Under-21 coach, will now be offered the job full-time, but he said he had "no idea" when a decision will be made.

Facing an injury-ravaged Spain, England went 2-0 up courtesy of a ninth-minute Adam Lallana penalty and a flying header by Jamie Vardy, who ended a 14-match goal drought and celebrated by doing the mannequin challenge on the pitch. Lallana, however, having started the game so impressively, had to go off injured midway through the first half.

There was more disappointment for England when Spain debutant Iago Aspas scored in the 89th minute before substitute Isco squeezed an equaliser past goalkeeper Tom Heaton in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

Injuries to Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba prompted Spain coach Julen Lopetegui to deploy a makeshift three-man defence of Nacho, Inigo Martinez and Cesar Azpilicueta.

After half an hour he switched to a back four and praised his players for standing up to the waves of England attacks.

"We were missing quite a few players through injury, so it was quite an inexperienced defence," said the former Porto coach, who also gave a debut to Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera.

"We knew England were very, very fast on the break. The poor lads at the back, Nacho and Martinez, it was an ugly game for them.

"They were always going to suffer against the speedy England forwards, but they reacted well in the second half and coming out with a draw at the end was a real credit to the defence."

England were missing captain Wayne Rooney after he returned to Manchester United for treatment on a minor knee injury.

British tabloid The Sun has claimed he drunkenly gate-crashed a wedding at a hotel in Watford, north of London, on Saturday, but Southgate said injury was the only reason for his absence.

"Wayne picked up an injury in the game (against Scotland) on Friday," he said. "He couldn't train on Sunday and that's it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'Southgate ready for the big time'. Print Edition | Subscribe