Spain snatch comeback win against England in Nations League group opener

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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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Man United star Marcus Rashford sends out reminder of potential in England player ratings

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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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Saul Niguez shows he can be talisman for Luis Enrique in our Spain player ratings

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Spain came back from behind and defeated England 2-1 to earn a glorious start to new head coach Luis Enrique’s reign.

The signs were not promising for La Roja in the early stages at Wembley when some defensive oversights allowed Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford to stroke in an 11th-minute opener for the hosts.

But a response was swift and dramatic from the World Cup 2018 round-of-16 finishers. Superb Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez swept in a cross from Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara moments later, before a free-kick from the same source led to the winner on on 32 minutes when Valencia striker Rodrigo converted at the near post.

Here are our La Roja player ratings from this Nations League clash:

SPAIN (4-3-3)

David De Gea – 7: A target for criticism at the World Cup, but a goalkeeper whose class remains unquestioned. Made fine saves in both halves from United club-mate Rashford. Fortunate to get away with dropping the ball when Danny Welbeck thought he’d levelled deep into second-half injury-time.

Dani Carvajal – 6: Real Madrid right-back was involved in unfortunate incident when United left-back Luke Shaw appeared to be knocked unconscious. No blame could be attached. Unlike for the opener, where he was nowhere to be seen as Shaw teed up Rashford.

Nacho – 6: Was befuddled by Rashford’s intelligent movement for England’s goal. Yet the value of his recovery pace was showcased on several occasions. Retired Gerard Pique has left big boots to fill – Nacho could do it.

Sergio Ramos – 7: The villain for any Liverpool fans at Wembley could not care less. Got stuck in as usual and showcased experienced in second half to edge out Rashford. Helped keep World Cup 2018 Golden Boot winner Harry Kane deathly quiet.

Marcos Alonso – 5: The Spain debutant was not allowed the attacking freedom granted to him by Chelsea. Will also shudder at replays of his role for Rashford’s strike. Can Jordi Alba come back in from the cold?

Thiago Alcantara – 8: The Bayern midfielder helped pass naive England to death and teed up both Spain’s goals. An essential cog in the Enrique set-up.

Sergio Busquets – 7: A changing of the guard was exemplified by the fact the anchorman was the only Barcelona player in Enrique’s debut XI. He’ll stay there for a long time, judging on this rarefied display. Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier couldn’t get near him.

Saul Niguez – 8: From not kicking a ball at the World Cup, to the star act in the new regime. His all-action attributes seem perfect for Enrique. So too his eye for goal, as he swept Spain level.

Rodrigo – 7: The former Bolton Wanderers loanee showcased stark rate of improvement when he found the bottom corner from Alcantara’s free-kick. Otherwise, usual centre forward for Valencia put in a selfless shift on the right for La Roja.

Iago Aspas – 5: Wasn’t even selected in the original squad, but Diego Costa’s withdrawal thrust him into the starting side. Did little with this opportunity.

Isco – 7: The Real Madrid playmaker wasn’t a constant presence. But what he did do, was done superbly.

SUBSTITUTES

Marco Asensio – 6: Didn’t have a great deal to do.

Sergi Roberto – N/A: Made it two Barca players on the park. Back in favour under new regime after World Cup snub.

Inigo Martinez – N/A: Kept the door slammed shut.

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