A rare brace from Raheem Sterling helped England pick up their first win of their Nations League campaign as a sensational first half in Seville was enough to defeat Spain 3-2.
Sterling’s ruthless finish saw him net his first England goal since 2015 before Marcus Rashford added a second after impressive hold-up play from Harry Kane.
The Spurs striker squared for Sterling to finish off a stunning move and sent the visitors into the break with a shock 3-0 lead.
Paco Alcácer’s header looked to have sparked a possible comeback early in the second half but a much-needed second goal came with the last kick of the game thanks to Sergio Ramos’s header.
England’s sensational first half almost started in the worst possible way when Marcos Alonso got on the end of Saul’s near-post flick-on. The Chelsea full-back’s effort came back off Jordan Pickford and miraculously flew over the bar to safety. Marco Asensio went close shortly afterwards after Kieron Trippier’s mistake allowed him to have a strike at goal but his effort was easily held by Pickford.
Gareth Southgate’s switch to a four-man defence had freed up space for a three-pronged attack which included the strength and power of Kane and the pace of Rashford and Sterling. The latter benefitted from his fellow forward’s pass to put the Three Lions in front after 16 minutes as his composed finish found the top corner.Embed from Getty Images
Spain’s possession-based football was causing more problems to themselves than it posed a threat to Pickford’s goal as Alonso and Jonny left acres of space in behind for Rashford and Sterling to exploit. Pickford’s sidewinded kick fell at the feet off Kane who shrugged off Nacho and Ramos before finding an onrushing Rashford and the Manchester United man finished past his club teammate to double England’s advantage.
Ross Barkley was providing brute force from midfield but his delicate pass was the one that broke through the Spanish backline and allowed Kane to square for Sterling as Spain conceded three goals at home for the first time since 1991. A scintillating first-half display from England paved the way for an overall desperate second period.Embed from Getty Images
Spain became relentless in search for a route back into the game and Luis Enrique opted for changes in the form of Paco Alcácer and Dani Ceballos. The former is on red-hot form for both Borussia Dortmund and La Roja this season, averaging a goal approximately every half an hour before he added to his tally seconds after his introduction with a pinpoint header.
England’s composed and confident demeanor suddenly switched to a sense of panic and Pickford almost succumbed to over-playing minutes after Alcácer had beaten him. The Everton keeper hesitated on the ball and allowed Rodrigo to steal it off him before recovering in what looked like an illegal manner as he pulled and tugged at the forward before tackling him.Embed from Getty Images
The Spanish contingent on the pitch and in the stands of the Benito Villamarín bayed for a penalty but the Polish referee stubbornly pointed the way of the corner flag. Southgate moved to ease the Spanish pressure by introducing Kyle Walker into a tried and trusted three-man defence. Asensio was quickly becoming the hosts’ main goal threat and sent a couple of long range efforts whizzing past Pickford’s posts.
Into the last five minutes and Spain’s stubborn structure of play waned in favour of a more direct attempt at finding the two goals they craved. Thiago found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as Dani Ceballos’s guided shot struck him as it headed goalwards before Alvaro Morata failed to divert a Pickford parry the right side of the near post.
England’s goal led a charmed life far more frequently than Southgate and his staff would’ve wanted as Alonso’s header crashed off the bar before Ramos managed to find the back of the net with a consolation in the very last second. After a frustrating trip to Croatia on Friday, England were thrilling victors on Spanish soil for the first time since 1987.
Spain meanwhile fell to defeat for the first time under Luis Enrique while an unbeaten run of 27 matches (during 90 minutes) simultaneously came to an end as well as a 38-game unbeaten home record stretching back to 2003.