Spain, who are also European champions and will defend their title next year, displayed their now typically brilliant short-passing game in the first half although for all their dominance before the break they created few scoring chances.
The game changed after halftime when Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque replaced master passer Xavi, allowing England to get a foothold after almost constantly watching Spain’s magical moves.
The game swung England’s way after 49 minutes when James Milner whipped in a freekick that Darren Bent met with a powerful header that hit substitute keeper Pepe Reina’s post. As the ball bounced along the line Lampard reacted first to nod into the empty net.
It was his 23rd goal for England in his 90th international on his second appearance as skipper, standing in for his Chelsea team mate John Terry who will return to the side for Tuesday’s friendly against Sweden.
It was also enough to give England their first win over Spain after three successive defeats since 2001 and only their third victory over the reigning world champions since they won the World Cup in 1966 on home soil.
Their only other victories both came at Wembley—in 1975 when they beat West Germany 2-0 and in 1980 when they overcame Argentina 3-1—but Saturday’s success was almost denied them in the final minute.
Cesc Fabregas, who replaced Xavi at halftime and was making his first appearance in London since leaving Arsenal for Barcelona in the close season, swept the ball wide of Joe Hart’s left-hand post and with it went Spain’s last chance of salvation.
Beaten only three times in their last 22 matches before Saturday, Spain had finished strongly, peppering Hart’s goal, but Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka were outstanding at the heart of the England defence.
Before Spain’s desperate finale, their striker David Villa had two good chances to score, sending his first effort into the side netting in the 57th minute and then hitting the post with a shot from the edge of the box 16 minutes later.
“I don’t think it was an upsetting defeat,” said Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque.
“The team put in all the effort they could, they played some good football and controlled the match. We just lacked a bit of spark in the decisive area of the pitch.”
Lampard, who has now pulled level on England goals with 1950s scoring hero Stan Mortensen, said: “We’re very pleased, its great to beat them now. They are the best team in the world but we wont get carried away by the fact we have beaten them.
“Lets be realistic, they dominated the game. Our back four, with Scott Parker in front, were brilliant. We wont be shouting from the rooftops. We have a game against Sweden on Tuesday and the reverse might happen.”
While the first half saw Spain dominate with their passing game, the second period produced the more dynamic play and England coach Fabio Capello was rewarded in part for missing his son’s wedding in Italy with a fine showing from some of his younger, inexperienced substitutes.
Danny Wellbeck, winning his third cap, and Jack Rodwell, making his debut, looked sharp and exciting and unsettled a Spanish defence which largely had an easy time before the break.
Until the flurry of second half substitutions, Spain midfielders Xavi and Xabi Alonso controlled almost every move and England were unable to break the visitors’ grip on the match because they hardly saw the ball.
When they did, their approach was in total contrast to the Spaniards with whoever was in possession looking for the long pass to try and build an England attack with a hit-and-hope approach.
Lampard had England’s only shot of note in the first period, a hugely speculative effort from 30 metres which goalkeeper Iker Casillas, making his 126th appearance to equal Andoni Zubizarreta’s Spanish record, saved easily.
Spain’s first chance came after 37 minutes when Xabi Alonso found Sergio Busquets who, with only Hart to beat, skied his shot over the bar.
That glaring miss came at the same end of the pitch where he scored for Barcelona in their 3-1 win over Manchester United in the Champions League final in May.
This time the five Barca players who featured against United and were on at the start—Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Villa, Xavi and Busquets—did not have quite such an enjoyable night. (Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)