Gareth Southgate lauded England’s players after their display of quality and courage stunned Spain in a Nations League victory that will live long in the memory.
Raheem Sterling ended his 1,102-day wait for an international goal in style in Seville, where he opened the scoring before netting again once Marcus Rashford had fired home.
It was a breathtaking first half that brought back memories of the 5-1 shellacking of Germany in 2001, but Spain rallied and piled on the pressure after the break as substitute Paco Alcacer pulled one back.
Sergio Ramos grabbed another in stoppage time, but England had done enough to secure a 3-2 victory that underlines the progress being made by the World Cup semi-finalists.
“I’m just extremely proud of the performance the players have given because the played with huge courage,” Southgate said.
“We knew that to come here and just defend for 90 minutes, you’re unlikely to get a result, so we needed to be brave with the ball.
“We talked about the threat that our front three have and that they need to believe in themselves, but also we then have to get the ball to them.
“We knew today, the way that Spain press, you have to get the first couple of passes out of that press spot on.
“At times, we ran the risk of losing the ball near our goal, but when we got out of that press we were a huge threat in counter attack.
“So, the quality of the play and the bravery of the players was the thing that pleased me most.”
This was the first time ever that Spain had conceded three goals in a competitive home match, with the Three Lions running amok during a magnificent first half.
Southgate was proud of the way that Rashford, Harry Kane and Sterling led from the front, with the latter grabbing the most attention after ending his goal drought so impressively.
“It’s not for me to take any credit,” the England boss said of Sterling.
“I think the only thing we did say was when he scores, he’ll probably score again – and he managed to do that pretty quickly.
“I’m delighted for him because I don’t think he ever lacked confidence, but I said last night sometimes you get chances and you’re thinking too much.
“I think tonight he just took the chances and was prepared to hit things early.
“But also, his general game was good. He took up some really dangerous pockets of play and got turned and running at the defence.
“Him and Marcus were really diligent with their defending as well, which we needed because you’re never going to dominate the whole game somewhere like this.
“We had to do more than of our share and being compact without the ball was going to be critical.”
England had to dig deep to win their first match in Spain since February 1987 and alleviate the threat of relegation from the Nations League’s top tier.
Raheem Sterling led a brilliant England performance as they stunned Spain with a 3-2 win in Seville on Monday night.
The Manchester City man scored twice as England’s counter-attack tore Spain apart in the first half, with his pace at the heart of all of the Three Lions’ best play. In the process, he also broke a scoring drought at international level that had lasted over three years.
Here’s a closer look at Sterling’s star turn.
Goals – 2
Shots – 2
Assists – 0
Key Passes – 1
Passing Accuracy – 75%
Dribbles – 0
Playing as part of England’s now-familiar front three, Sterling had a superb game, with his pace making him a threat to get in behind Spain’s defence all night long and earning two goals.
He scored his first with a sumptuous finish past David de Gea, following a lovely through ball from Marcus Rashford, and added a second by serving as a perfect strike partner for Harry Kane, who nodded down a simple ball over the top for Sterling to tap in.
Sterling’s pace is often his greatest asset and so it proved again on Monday night. Spain’s defence couldn’t handle his direct running, as he had the beating of them in a foot-race and thus negated their traditional high line.
His finishing can often let him down, but on this occasion, Sterling made no mistake. His first goal was extremely well-taken, as he deceived De Gea by going across his body to find the far corner, before tapping in an easy second.
Raheem Sterling ends his 3 year run without an international goal (27 games).— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) October 15, 2018
It’s also the 1st time he’s scored past David De Gea, having not scored in 13 games v Man Utd when the Spain keeper has been involved pic.twitter.com/DF0J1L7xmF
On a night where he scored twice, it’s hard to pinpoint anything that Sterling did wrong. However, he was occasionally wasteful in possession, with his passing rate of 75 per cent slightly below the mark – though it was still the best of any of England’s front three. Given that the team’s passing accuracy was 77 per cent, Sterling’s number was just about par.
He was also dispossessed four times, more than any other player who took the pitch in Seville.
For a player who hadn’t scored since October 2015, this was a stunning way to remind everyone of his goalscoring prowess. The confidence is flowing through Sterling at the moment, and it was plain to see with his display against Spain.
His pace was perfect for a team geared to play on the counter, while his first goal would have banished most of his demons of playing against De Gea, who’s made him look silly on previous occasions. A stunning performance.
RATING – 9/10
Here are our player ratings as the Three Lions recorded a famous victory in Seville.
JORDAN PICKFORD: Started the moves for England’s opening two goals and made a superb early save – was arguably at fault for Alcacer’s goal as he conceded a soft corner before losing possession to Rodrigo and winning back the ball with a remarkable sliding challenge. 7.
KIERAN TRIPPIER: Had no chances to show his set-piece prowess as he appears to be sharing right-back duties with Kyle Walker. 6.
HARRY MAGUIRE: So calm and collected in possession of the ball, could have taught his counterparts a thing or two on the night. 7.
JOE GOMEZ: In for the suspended John Stones and, bar an early errant pass, did the job well. 7.
BEN CHILWELL: Taken to international football with aplomb, his second start for the Three Lions coming against a team with the attacking wealth of Spain but the Leicester man coped well. 7.
ERIC DIER: Unfairly booked for a crunching challenge on Ramos but marshalled the midfield from deep. 7.
HARRY WINKS: Slipped into the midfield with ease as he collected just his second cap, with more surely coming his way. 7.
ROSS BARKLEY: A sublime pass for Rashford’s second goal just shows what the Chelsea man can offer at this level. 7.
RAHEEM STERLING: Had two goals in 45 caps but doubled that tally inside 45 minutes as he put the hosts to the sword with a brace to end his 1,102-day England goal drought. 9.
MARCUS RASHFORD: Played in Sterling for the opener before tucking away his own chance, his pace a constant worry for Spain all evening. 8.
HARRY KANE: Still waiting for his first England goal in seven caps but was superb and played a massive part in two of the goals. 8.
KYLE WALKER (for Barkley, 76): Introduced as England reshuffled to a back-three in an attempt to keep Spain at bay as they threatened an unlikely comeback. 6.
TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (for Trippier, 85): A late injection of pace with England attempting to break out on the rare occasion they saw the ball in the latter stages. 6.
NATHANIEL CHALOBAH (for Winks, 90): A short England debut for the Watford midfielder. n/a