Southgate lauds Three Lions' courage in win over Spain

Raheem Sterling finishing past Spain goalkeeper David de Gea for his second goal. The double was the Manchester City winger's first England goals in 1,102 days, or more than three years. The stuttering England attack of Sterling, Harry Kane and Marcu
Raheem Sterling finishing past Spain goalkeeper David de Gea for his second goal. The double was the Manchester City winger's first England goals in 1,102 days, or more than three years. The stuttering England attack of Sterling, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford had come under fire after the 0-0 draw with Croatia last week. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEVILLE • England manager Gareth Southgate praised his side for playing with courage to win 3-2 away to Spain in the Uefa Nations League on Monday and said the experience of beating one of the world's top sides would serve his young team well.

England ran riot to take a 3-0 halftime lead through Raheem Sterling's double and Marcus Rashford, although Spain substitute Paco Alcacer netted before the hour and captain Sergio Ramos headed in a last-gasp goal for the hosts.

"The quality of the performance was great, we played and used the ball with courage," Southgate said.

"When you come to an opponent with the quality of Spain and try to outplay them, they'll unpick you as they did in the last seven minutes. But we showed real quality on the counter and in our finishes."

Although England defied expectations to reach this year's World Cup semi-finals, they have a poor record against stronger teams in competitive games - their last major success was a 5-1 win away to Germany in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.

"This is a great reference for the young players, you need wins and positive experiences to give you confidence for the future," added Southgate, who fielded England's youngest starting side this century.

"But we won't get carried away. There's lots to work on (as) we conceded two really poor goals."

 
 
 

The England boss also believes that his side's attack answered their critics, with striker Harry Kane heavily involved with a pair of excellent assists in Seville.

Sterling, Rashford and Kane have all faced criticism recently. Sterling had not scored for England in 1,102 days while Kane's international drought now stands at seven matches. Rashford was guilty of wasting two golden chances in a 0-0 draw with Croatia on Friday.

"All three of them understandably had questions asked and all three responded with top performances," Southgate said.

Spain coach Luis Enrique, meanwhile, blasted his side for their "awful" first-half display as they suffered their first home loss in a competitive game for 15 years.

"We have to recognise that we could not press well and the first goal killed us," he said after his first defeat as Spain coach, having won his previous three games.

Spain's limp performance saw them booed off at the break in the 60,000-capacity Benito Villamarin stadium, although they were much improved in the second half and had 25 shots on goal to England's five by the final whistle.

Added Enrique: "We pushed them all the way back in the second half and it's a shame we didn't score the second goal earlier, because our fans would have scored the third by themselves."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2018, with the headline 'Southgate lauds Three Lions' courage in win over Spain'. Print Edition | Subscribe