Goal ace Clarke nets to earn GB draw against Spain

HARPENDEN’S David Clarke scored his 127th international career goal as GB drew 1-1 with Spain in their first blind 5-a-side football tie at the Riverbank Arena in the Paralympic Games this afternoon (Friday).

The Hertfordshire 41-year-old had been buoyant after helping to ignite the Paralympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday and it was a superb solo strike that ensured his side a point against the 2010 World Cup runners-up.

Clarke received the ball around the 8m penalty mark on 22 minutes and turned the Spanish defence superbly before unleashing an unstoppable right foot shot that sailed past Alvaro in the Spanish goal.

Just three minutes earlier it had appeared that GB’s debut on home soil was going to take a turn for the worse when Spanish dangerman Antonio Martin converted from the 6m penalty mark after a foul on Marcelo Rosado Carrasco in the penalty area.

Martin, who won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup in Hereford, hit a low right foot shot which GB keeper Lewis Skyers did well to partially block but he couldn’t stop the ball from nestling in the side net.

Two minutes later, Martin could have doubled Spain’s lead when GB committed their fourth foul of the half, resulting in an 8m penalty.

Again, Martin hit a strong right-footed shot but Skyers did well to palm the ball away to safety.

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And Spain were left to rue their missed chance when Clarke converted 60 seconds later to restore parity.

“We would have liked to win, but they are seven-times European champions so we’ll take a point,” said Clarke.

“There’s a lot of talent on the Spanish side. They made it very difficult for us. They knew their game plan – they tried to catch us on the break all the time. They were looking for penalties. I thought our defence held up well.”

GB head coach Tony Larkin was also pleased with the point but felt Spain were there for the taking, saying: “I thought if we could score first then we could probably go on and win the game but we gave a silly foul away and they converted the penalty.

“It was a great strike from David Clarke to get us back in it, though, and he took a bit of a battering today with a nose bleed and a couple of blows to the head.

“The pitch is water based but it was a bit dryer than we’d expected. The wet conditions seem to suit to our style of play as we can zip the ball around quite quickly on our day but it seemed that the likes of David Clarke and Robin Williams were getting the ball caught under their feet a little bit.”

Clarke described the experience as “incredible”, adding: “You couldn’t see it behind the shades but there were a couple of tears rolling down.

“I hope you noticed at the anthem that we sang it heartily. We love our anthem. We love our country. It was just great to be a part of it. We’re here to win a medal and the start could have been better, but it’s good enough.”

The draw means that both GB and Spain are tied for second behind group leaders Argentina who sealed all three points in a comfortable win over Iran earlier today.

Larkin commented: “We’ve got Argentina on Sunday and they’re similar to us in that they’re beginning to start a transitional phase with younger players coming in for the old guard so it’s another difficult game for us.”