Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 24 News List

McClaren blames England's friendly loss on injury list

AFP , MANCHESTER

England boss Steve McClaren has admitted he understood why his side had been booed off the pitch after another insipid performance ended in a 1-0 friendly defeat by Spain.

Spain never approached their fluent best but Andres Iniesta's sublime second-half strike was still enough to deliver a deserved victory for Luis Aragones' side over opponents who looked unbalanced and desperately short of ideas.

With England trailing Croatia and Russia in their Euro 2008 qualifying group, McClaren could ill afford the second defeat of his seven-match reign and the reaction of a far-from-full Old Trafford crowd spoke volumes about the way confidence in England's future is evaporating in the build-up to a tricky trip to Israel at the end of next month.

"It is disappointing to lose and I can understand the reaction," McClaren said after what was England's first defeat on home soil in over three years. "The fans don't like us losing football matches and especially this one being the last one at Old Trafford [before England return to the new Wembley]."

"We finished on a low. We knew it was going to be a hard game and we lost it. It is a huge disappointment to do that, we can't get away from that," he added.

McClaren, insisted however that the performances of debutant goalkeeper Ben Foster, Jonathan Woodgate and Kieron Dyer had provided a positive element to an evening in which he could legitimately point to the absence of half his first-choice line-up as a factor mitigating against a convincing display.

"There were maybe six or seven players who would have been playing tonight who were not there," McClaren said. "It is not an excuse but it is a reason. No-one is blind to the fact that we lacked that quality in the final third that wins you football matches. Some of our approach play was patient and good but our final ball let us down too often."

Aragones, whose side are also in a far from enviable position in their Euro 2008 group, did his best to be diplomatic about England's performance but McClaren could have done without his candid observation on how easily his side created two-on-one situations when attacking the left flank of England's defense.

"It surprised me how they left just one man there and that gave us a few opportunities," the veteran coach said. "England are always difficult to play against. They are a strong team but we are perhaps more technical."

"Our players are good on the ball and maybe we were thinking quicker," he added.

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