Gareth Southgate was pleased to hear voices raised in the England dressing room as “stern words” at half-time against Switzerland helped deliver a first victory in four games.
England were at risk of sinking to their worst ever sequence of defeats having lost their World Cup semi-final to Croatia, a third-place play-off to Belgium and Saturday’s Nations League date with Spain.
A much-changed starting XI, containing only two players who lined up at Wembley four days earlier and several with precious few Premier League minutes under their belt, were fortunate to reach the break level at the King Power Stadium after Xherdan Shaqiri hit the post.
A player-led inquest followed and, nine minutes after play resumed, Marcus Rashford’s smart volley ensured a 1-0 win.
“We always encourage them to have a voice. It’s important they feel close enough that they can get on to each other,” said Southgate.
“They were frustrated by the first half. I wasn’t in there at that moment because we always give them the first three or four minutes to themselves.
“We have to make sure that doesn’t boil over but it was quite calm by the time we got in there.
“That’s a good sign there’s some leadership in the group. They recognise when they want to be better.
“Today they were harsh on themselves.”
The view from the camp was equally welcoming of the lively mid-match debate.
Man-of-the-match Danny Rose told BBC Radio 5Live: “We could have been two or three nil down at half-time. It’s great we can all shout at each other and tell each other to improve like we did.
“In the end, we are over the moon to keep a clean sheet and get back to winning ways.”
Luis Enrique could not fault Spain’s attitude as they produced a superb display to thrash World Cup finalists Croatia 6-0 in Elche.
Marco Asensio scored one, saw another strike rebound off the crossbar and go in off the goalkeeper and set up three second-half goals as La Roja took firm control of Group A4 of the UEFA Nations League.
After following up Saturday’s win against England at Wembley, Spain are already closing in on a place in the final four.
“The attitude of all the players has been very good,” Enrique said in his post-match press conference, according to Marca.
“It is difficult to criticise anything in a match that saw such a high level of performance.
“I have nothing to object against, I liked almost everything I saw.”
Croatia were showing five changes from the side that lost July’s final to France in Russia, but player of the tournament Luka Modric was among the starters as his country suffered their biggest defeat – their previous worst result being a 5-1 loss to England at Wembley in 2009.
And it was one of Modric’s club mates who stole the show, with Asensio scoring his first international goal and setting up Real team-mates Sergio Ramos and Isco as well as Valencia striker Rodrigo.
Former Barcelona boss Enrique named a starting XI featuring six Real players in total and just one from his former team – midfielder Sergio Busquets.
But Enrique insisted he did not have any thoughts about a player’s club when naming his side.
“I did not know or care,” he said. “They belong to the Spanish national team, nothing more. They are not from one team or another. I only see a shirt, that of the national team.”
Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul had given Spain a 23rd-minute lead – after Croatia right-back Sime Vrsaljko had been forced off through injury – before Asensio scored and then forced Lovre Kalinic’s own goal in quick succession.
World Cup runners-up Croatia were thrashed 6-0 by Spain in their extraordinary UEFA Nations League opener in Elche.
The hosts were 5-0 up inside an hour against a strong Croatian line-up which included the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
Saul Niguez opened the scoring in the League A clash with a powerful 24th-minute header before Marco Asensio blasted two thunderous strikes in the space of as many minutes – the second deflecting home off Croatia goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic.
Rodrigo added Spain’s fourth goal four minutes into the second half and Sergio Ramos evaded his marker to head home the fifth in the 56th minute.
With Croatia showing no appetite for the fight, Isco cleverly dispatched his side’s sixth goal and Rodrigo had late chances to make the evening even more embarrassing for the Croatians.
Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium cruised to a 3-0 win over Iceland in Reykjavik.
Under new coach Erik Hamren, the home side provided sterner resistance than they showed three days ago in a 6-0 defeat to Switzerland in St Gallen.
It took Roberto Martinez’s men half an hour to break the deadlock and when the opener came it was through an Eden Hazard penalty.
Lukaku doubled Belgium’s advantage within two minutes and the Manchester United star completed a comfortable win when he converted a pass from Dries Mertens nine minutes from time.
In League B, Edin Dzeko grabbed the only goal of the game in the 78th minute as Bosnia overcame Austria 1-0 in Zenica.
In League C, Hungary edged a 2-1 win over Greece in Budapest. Roland Sallai’s 15th-minute effort was quickly cancelled out by Kostas Manolas for the visitors.
But a 42nd-minute effort from Laszlo Kleinheisler proved enough for the Hungarians to bounce back from Saturday’s opening 1-0 defeat in Finland.
The Finns maintained their promising start to the competition as Teemu Pukki’s 12th-minute effort proved decisive in a 1-0 victory over Estonia in Turku.
In League D, Luxembourg eased to a 3-0 win in San Marino, while Moldova and Belarus drew 0-0.