Image Credit [PA]
Forget the archaic actions of a minority of England fans off the pitch, this was yet more evidence of a new England on it. After a first World Cup semi-final since 1990, England built on this to beat Spain away for the first time in 31 years. A pulsating 3-2 win was based on clinical first-half counter-attacking and determined second-half defending which ensured progress under Southgate remerged again following a slip against Spain at home and a draw in Croatia.
Remember when international football used to be boring? Coinciding with England’s resurgence, the UEFA Nations League has revitalized international football, with this game providing the best evidence yet that the new competition can move international football away from its usual drudgery. This was fast, nervy and feisty. Led by the superb Harry Kane, England tormented Spain’s backline in the first-half. Sterling opened the scoring in stunning fashion, betraying the fact it was his first England goal in over 1,000 days, with a move that involved every England player. Rashford struck 13 minutes later before Sterling again clinically punished Spain in a scintillating 22 minutes.
In the second half, Spain moved through the gears, playing football which drove England deep into their own half. Definitely outplayed in the second 45 minutes, England relied on resilient defending, their first half performance and a large dose of luck. Pickford was extremely fortunate to get away with a huge lack of judgement when he was tackled by Asensio in his own box, relying on an excellent last-ditch tackle after clear fouling to escape with just a corner conceded. But that is not to say England did not deserve to hang on to the victory. Despite Spain’s dominance of possession, England restricted their hosts to few clear-cut chances. Marshalled by the superb Eric Dier, England dug in to frustrate Spain and ensure they remain in the hunt to top Group I.
this victory was against a Spanish side that had not lost at home in 5,609 days, and the first time they had conceded 3 in the opening 45 minutes at home since 1963.
Southgate has done more than enough to ensure we should focus on the many positives from England’s victory, with the fact that this was England’s youngest team in the 21st century being central to this. Among other positives were Pickford’s excellent distribution, Sterling’s finishing and Kane leading the line superbly. The stats back up this positivity; this victory was against a Spanish side that had not lost at home in 5,609 days, and the first time they had conceded 3 in the opening 45 minutes at home since 1963. Away wins at the big boys of international football are rare for England, and this night will live long in the memory.