Familiar failings cost Gareth Southgate and England as they fluff their lines against Spain

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Gareth Southgate and England have now lost three straight matches.

England failed to build on the momentum of reaching the World Cup semi-finals to begin their Nations League campaign as Spain came from behind to win 2-1 at Wembley in Luis Enrique’s first game in charge.

Gareth Southgate couldn’t have asked for a better start in England’s first game since returning from Russia as Marcus Rashford swept the hosts into an early lead.

But Spain punctured the feel-good factor surrounding the Three Lions by hitting back through Saul Niguez and Rodrigo before half-time.

Here, we focus on the England manager’s performance.

KEY STATS

Goals – 1

Shots – 9

Possession – 45%

Accurate Passes – 415

Dribbles – 5

30-SECOND REPORT

Southgate went with the 3-1-4-2 formation that served England well in the summer. Joe Gomez replaced Kyle Walker as the third centre-back, while Luke Shaw made a long-overdue return as left wingback, and Marcus Rashford partnered Harry Kane up front.

England acquitted themselves well, taking an early lead, with Manchester United duo Shaw and Rashford combining superbly. However, they were caught out twice by Spain, who had the lead by half-time. England passed up several chances to equalise, with Rashford particularly guilty.

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Long diagonals

With Spain defending narrowly, England constantly targeted the space on either flank. The Three Lions defenders and midfielders kept pinging long diagonals to find their wingbacks, with Harry Maguire and John Stones in particular showing their prowess at picking out a colleague.

Kieran Trippier, Shaw and Danny Rose all profited, with Shaw providing the assist for England’s goal off a flowing move. However, Spain defended their centre well, shackling England’s strikers, which negated England’s width.

Marcus Rashford scored one but could have had a match-winning hat-trick.

Marcus Rashford scored one but could have had a match-winning hat-trick.

VERDICT

Southgate ditched the waistcoat that had become an inadvertent fashion statement over the summer, but little else had changed about the England manager and his side over the last couple of months.

With better finishing, the conversation would have been about how England were truly resurgent, backing up their World Cup performance with a win over a traditional power.

Instead, they were left to rue familiar failings in defence and attack as they began their UEFA Nations League campaign with a loss.

RATING – 7/10

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Spain came from behind to win their Nations League Group A4 opener 2-1 against England at Wembley.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate started with eight of the XI which began the World Cup semi-final against Croatia – and saw his team sweep into a 10th-minute lead.

Marcus Rashford clipped the ball past Manchester United team-mate David De Gea after a fine low cross from full-back Luke Shaw.

Spain, with former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique now in charge, hit back straight away when Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez lashed in from close range after slick build-up play from Dani Carvajal.

The visitors then turned the match around after 32 minutes when Rodrigo volleyed in following a free-kick.

There was a lengthy delay early in the second half as United defender Shaw, making his first England start since September 2015, was taken off on a stretcher after a heavy fall following a collision with Carvajal.

Deep into nine minutes of added time, England thought they had found an equaliser when substitute Danny Welbeck hooked the ball in after it had been dropped at his feet by De Gea – but the Dutch referee ruled the goal out for a foul.

In Group A2, Liverpool midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri helped Switzerland to a thumping 6-0 win over Iceland.

Steven Zuber fired the home side in front after 13 minutes, with Denis Zakaria knocking in a second shortly afterwards.

Shaqiri’s free-kick flicked in off Birkir Bjarnason after 53 minutes, with Haris Seferovic and Albian Ajeti, on his debut, completing the route in St Gallen.

Northern Ireland’s Group B3 campaign got off to a frustrating start as they lost 2-1 to Bosnia and Herzegovina despite dominating the match at Windsor Park.

Michael O’Neill’s side could have been given a penalty within the opening minute when George Saville tumbled under a challenge from Ervin Zukanovic, but Czech referee Pavel Kralovec waved play on.

Despite Northern Ireland dominating possession, it was the visitors who opened the scoring after 37 minutes through a close-range finish from Haris Duljevic.

Elvis Saric later capitalised on a defensive mix-up to double the lead in the 64th minute.

Northern Ireland rallied again and finally found a goal in stoppage time through Will Grigg but could not conjure a dramatic equaliser.

Norwich forward Teemu Pukki’s early goal proved enough to give Finland a 1-0 victory over Hungary in their Group C2 clash in Tampere.

Olympiakos captain Kostas Fortounis was on target in the second half as Greece won 1-0 in Estonia.

Saturday’s Group D2 matches saw Belarus romp to a 5-0 home win over San Marino, Stanislaw Drahun scoring twice, while Luxembourg saw off Moldova 4-0.

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Marcus Rashford (l) gave England the lead

There was no happy return for England following their World Cup semi-final run as The Three Lions were beaten 2-1 by Spain in the UEFA Nations League on Saturday.

Marcus Rashford opened the scoring for the hosts in front of Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho at Wembley before Saul Niguez equalised just moments later. The visitors then took advantage of some poor defending when Rodrigo slotted home just before half-time.

Luke Shaw, who set up Rashford’s goal, was stretchered off after a clash of heads in the second half while Danny Welbeck harshly had a goal ruled out deep into stoppage time.

Here are our player ratings:

England 3-1-4-2

Jordan Pickford – 6: Could have done better to prevent Spain’s first, but had no chance for second.

Joe Gomez – 6: Had a busy 45 minutes when Spain were dangerous on the attack, but raised his game as the match went on.

John Stones – 6: An effective performance by the Manchester City man, who was unfortunate to get a yellow card despite winning the ball cleanly.

Harry Maguire – 5: Was one of the stand-out performers in Russia, but the Leicester man was a shadow of the player at Wembley. A lapse of concentration played Spain onside for the visitors’ second.

Jordan Henderson – 6: Not one of his best performances and struggled to make an impact. Unsurprisingly was replaced on the hour mark.

Kieran Trippier – 6: Conceded the free-kick for Spain’s second goal with a rash challenge. Wasn’t effective on the wing, but did his job defensively.

Jesse Lingard – 6: Fairly quiet game by his own standards. Did try to link up play when on the counter attack, but nothing to trouble the Spaniards.

Dele Alli: 6 – Like Lingard, played short passes but didn’t have the freedom to showcase his attacking abilities.

Luke Shaw – 7: Recalled to the starting XI, the Manchester United defender sent out another reminder of his resurgent form when he provided an exquisite pass for England’s opener. Stretchered off in second half.

Marcus Rashford 7: – Made no mistake to give England the lead and was unlucky not to add to his tally after being stopped thrice by club team-mate David De Gea.

Harry Kane – 5: May well have been wearing golden boots, but the captain was nowhere near his best that we are used to seeing.

SUBSTITUTES:

Danny Rose – 6: Pressed forward whenever he had the ball, but was closely marked by Spain.

Eric Dier – 6: Replaced Henderson, but didn’t have a big impact.

Danny Welbeck – N/A: Unlucky not to have scored the equaliser deep into stoppage time.

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