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:
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.
24 - England have lost their first competitive game at Wembley since November 2007 (2-3 v Croatia), ending a run of 24 games without defeat there in competitive action. Pipped. pic.twitter.com/WGVXHW8hPB— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 8, 2018
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.
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:
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.
1 - Marcos Alonso will make his first start for Spain in this game, 37 years and 167 days after his Father debuted for the national team (also against England at Wembley). Family. pic.twitter.com/1yhfstOulG— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 8, 2018
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.
Wales defender Ben Davies admits he is pleased to being playing against the “best” Denmark team rather than a bunch of part-timers.
The dispute over the image rights of the Denmark players had threatened to turn the Nations League game in Aarhus on Sunday into a farce.
Denmark fielded a team of lower-league and futsal players for the 3-0 friendly defeat to Slovakia on Wednesday.
That was the prospect facing Wales until a deal was brokered by the Danish FA and its players’ association the following day and Davies is happy.
“If we want to win things and prove ourselves, we have to do it against the best possible teams,” Davies said.
“Denmark are a really strong team when they’ve got their best players there. That’s the players we want to play against.
“But we haven’t thought about any of the palaver that’s gone on with them, we’ve just tried to be ready when the game comes.”
The settling of the Danish dispute means Davies will come up against Tottenham team-mate Christian Eriksen.
“He sometimes sees things that other people don’t,” Davies said. “His awareness of the game, ability to pick a pass and the quality he’s got makes him one of the best midfielders in the world.
“We’ve been very lucky to have him over the last few years the number of chances he’s created.
“He makes our team flow as we get our rhythm through him, helping us take the ball from defence to attack so easily.”
The tie also sees Davies return to a country he knows well as he spent part of his childhood in Denmark when his father worked there.
Davies spent about two years – before his comprehensive school education – living around an hour away from Aarhus.
“Football played a massive part when I was there,” Davies said. “But it was so cold some days in Denmark we had to train indoors.
“I loved living there and I loved having that experience and, looking back, I’m so happy I did it.”