England kick-started their UEFA Nations League campaign on Monday night after a sizzling first-half display in Seville, which ultimately ended up in a 3-2 victory.
Raheem Sterling broke his well-publicised international goal drought in the 16th minute, latching onto a superb wide through pass from the impressive Marcus Rashford, before the Manchester United forward then got on the scoresheet himself in similar fashion following Harry Kane’s intricate turn and vision to pick him out inside La Roja’s penalty area.
Sterling doubled up before the break courtesy of another Kane assist as the Spurs striker laid it on a plate for him to sweep home.
Paco Alcacer got the hosts back in it after he stooped from a corner in the 58th minute before Sergio Ramos made it 3-2 with the last kick of the game, and in truth, Spain enjoyed all the territorial pressure in the second period. They perhaps warranted more from the match in a result which has left the Group 4 more open than before.
Here, we look at the key talking points:
A night to forget for Spain
Luis Enrique’s men spurned the chance to make it nine points from nine in Group 4 with a really limp first-half display under the lights in front of their home faithful.
While the optimism created after their World Cup debacle shouldn’t disappear off the back of this result, the performance was lacking the same intensity, discipline and quality.
Indeed, it was the first time ever Spain have conceded three goals at home in a competitive fixture, and it was their first loss on home soil in a meaningful match since 2003 – all that being a far cry from their showings during the recent 6-0 thrashing of Russia 2018 finalists Croatia and a convincing 4-1 success over Wales in Cardiff.
After debuting with a 2-1 win at Wembley, the former Barcelona manager has masterminded a 6-0 thrashing of World Cup finalists Croatia and an emphatic 4-1 friendly victory over Wales.
While Eric Dier certainly shook up Sergio Ramos with an old-fashioned, full blooded tackle – and earned a yellow as a result – it summed up a poor opening 45 minutes for the Real Madrid captain.
The 32-year-old was chasing shadows for England’s third when Kane stole a yard on him while the defence overall was a shambles with Marcos Alonso trying to play the offside trap against Sterling. Neither Nacho nor Jonny Castro covered themselves in glory.
Alcacer’s second-half header, after he stole a march on Ross Barkley, was undoubtedly a bright spark and if the Borussia Dortmund loanee continues his good form, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde may have a rethink over his Camp Nou future.
Eric Dier vs Sergio Ramos with one of the most fabulously pointless clatterings ever seen. Magnificent. pic.twitter.com/hYfGBTmgdX
— Panini Cheapskates (@CheapPanini) October 15, 2018
Sterling ends barren international patch
The world’s media were just waiting to reel off the statistics when Sterling found the back of the net.
And those numbers, in fairness, were worth the wait. Staggeringly, it had been 1,103 days since the Sky Blues attacker had found the net in an England jersey – a stretch of 28 games dating back to October 2015.
He thrived in his right-sided role and caused Spain all sorts of problems in the opening period, with England generally looking more balanced and fluid in a new-look 4-3-3 system adopted by Gareth Southgate in the Nations League.
Kane, who had denied he was suffering from burnout and needed a rest beforehand, showed his class with two assists to help England to their first away win in Spain since 1987.
Raheem Sterling with a superb finish gives England the lead. Gets unwarranted criticism at times, but we tend to forget he’s still only 23. Terrific young footballer with a great attitude.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) October 15, 2018
Spain denied blatant penalty
Jordan Pickford has not enjoyed the greatest start to the season at club level with Everton – in what has been somewhat of a mini World Cup hangover.
Back in September, he was guilty of a poor clearance which led to a Andriy Yarmolenko goal for West Ham during Manuel Pellegrini’s first win in charge of the Hammers at Goodison – and on Tuesday night – the England keeper failed to clear altogether.
Having received the ball inside his penalty area, the Toffees stopper dallied and attempted the famous Cruyff turn – but not to the same effect the famous Netherlands No14 once enjoyed – as Rodrigo beared down on him.
The Valencia hitman got ahead of Pickford and was almost home and dry to tuck the ball in the empty net but the England goalkeeper battled back – with the help seemingly of a shirt pull – and kicked the ball out of play for a corner. It was a lucky escape and felt like a real momentum changer in the Three Lions’ favour, particularly given it arrived five minutes after Spain had got themselves back in it.
Les Bleus’ star N’Golo Kante wants France to prove they deserve to be world champions.
The Chelsea midfielder believes being the world champs is a huge status, but now France must prove they are worthy of the title by performing in the big games that follow.
France’s next game is against under-fire Germany at the Stade de France on Tuesday night. (22:45 UAE time)
Watch what Kante had to say below.
Aaron Ramsey has withdrawn from Wales’ squad ahead of their Nations League encounter against Ireland on Tuesday because of family reasons.
The Arsenal midfielder earned his 56th international cap in the 4-1 friendly defeat to Spain last Thursday, captaining Wales in the second half.
However, the Football Association of Wales announced he will not travel with the squad to Dublin, with Swansea winger Daniel James called up from the under-21s to take his place.
The FAW said in a tweet: “Daniel James has been called up to the senior team from the under 21’s this morning.
Aaron Ramsey will no longer travel with the squad to Dublin due to family reasons.”