England captain Harry Kane said referee Danny Makkelie "bottled it" after Danny Welbeck had a goal disallowed deep into stoppage time as Spain won 2-1 at Wembley in the UEFA Nations League.
England took the lead through Marcus Rashford but trailed before half-time after Saul Niguel and Rodrigo netted. Coach Gareth Southgate lost Manchester United defender Luke Shaw to a head injury shortly after the interval and pressed hard for an equaliser as the game entered its final stages.
Welbeck thought he had earned a point well into nine minutes added on, largely for the injury to Shaw, but Makkelie adjudged the Arsenal striker to have fouled Spain goalkeeper David De Gea right before scoring from close range.
And Kane was furious that his side were denied a point against Luis Enrique's side.
"In those big moments you need a ref to stay strong and unfortunately he's bottled it," Kane told Sky Sports. "Danny Welbeck's just stood there, the keepers come to catch it and just fallen on top of him and he's put it away.
"So now the ref's given a foul. Those big moments, sometimes you need a firm ref who doen't, under the pressure, give wrong decisions.
"Disappointing to finish that way, I thought we played well, especially second half and we deserved a draw at least.
"Danny's just stood there, and De Gea's gone up and he's caught the ball but as he's come down he's fallen on top of Danny. He hasn't gone to foul him or anything, and the ball's dropped.
"Keepers sometimes get better treatment than the rest of us and that's unfortunate for us."
Despite the defeat, Kane took plenty of positives from England's performance.
"It was a good game, a real test against a team who keep the ball really well," Kane said. "There were stages when they had the ball and it was difficult for us, but we had a good spell throughout the game as well. We probably created the better chances and I think we deserved a draw at least."
England boss Gareth Southgate backed Kane's assessment of the call, saying it was a clear goal while admitting Spain were better for long stretches.
"I think the two defenders tried to block Danny out of it," Southgate said after the match. "De Gea came over the top and just dropped it.
"I think it's clear for everybody to see that it should have been a goal. But over the 90 minutes we have to accept that Spain were better than us for long periods of the game.
"We know the quality they possess. Their retention of the ball was top class. We were a little bit disjointed in some of our pressing, particularly in the first half.
"But even when you press well against them, they have some wonderful players that can wriggle out of problems and play first time out of situations.
"At the moment, we're not able to do that when teams are pressing us high."
"As the game wore on, we started to work that our and I thought Eric (Dier) provided some stability for us, and him and John (Stones) being able to rotate positions allowed us to play through midfield better.
"I'm very proud of the way the players finished the game because it was a night when you know you are playing against a top team.
"I've seen teams fold in that sort of situation, but we finished really strongly, created a couple of very good chances, have probably had as many shots on target as they have.
"So, given where we're at and we need those experiences to improve and I couldn't ask any more of the players."
Southgate's opposite number Luis Enrique, who was overseeing his first match in charge of Spain, admitted he hadn't been able to see the play from his vantage point.
"I couldn't see the play from my place," Luis Enrique said. "It was difficult.
"I asked David De Gea and he told me he was fouled, but I don't know. I cannot swear.
"We have to think about the whole match and I think we deserved to win."
With the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Gerard Pique all retiring from the international stage, Luis Enrique's starting lineup had only five players who started against Russia in the World Cup last-16 penalty shootout loss.
But the former Barcelona manager said he was happy with what he saw: "The thing I liked most tonight was the attitude of my players,. We suffered a bit towards the end but against good opponents that can happen. Now we can go on and improve.
"Winning like this is the very best way possible to begin."