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.


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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