Raheem Sterling has heard the criticism that he can’t finish chances, and he has responded. On the field, that is.
Behind a double from Sterling, England toppled Spain 3-2 with a vicious counter-attack that juxtaposed Spain’s sleepy, wasteful attack on Monday in Sevilla. The match marked the first time that Spain has ever conceded three or more goals in a competitive home match.
The Manchester City winger was the first on the scoresheet just 18 minutes in as England flowed forward on a counter-attack and with the two-on-three break, Marcus Rashford delivered a beautiful feed to Sterling who blasted his effort past a statue-like David De Gea. The break was actually started way back with Jordan Pickford, who touched past a charging defender and delivered an absolute bullet of a pass to Harry Kane just before the midfield stripe.
Spain dominated possession throughout the match, but they suffered from similar ills as this summer’s World Cup, unable to produce enough dangerous moments and embarrassing failures at the back. England, on the other hand, was happy to sit back and pick its spots on the break, and they were clinical when given the chance.
Marco Asensio skied a shot over the bar in the 18th minute, and Spain would rue its wastefulness as England would double its lead on the half-hour mark. Rashford was the one to finish it off on the counter this time, taking a pinpoint feed from Kane and volleying the bouncing ball into the back of the net after leaking behind the defense and beating Jonny to the spot.
Sterling would grab England’s third before halftime as England would display a bit of venomous half-court play. Kieran Trippier did the heavy lifting with a brilliant chip over the Spanish back line, finding Kane who had snuck behind Sergio Ramos and slid to meet the ball, tapping in front of net for Sterling who finished from the doorstep with ease.
Spain held a whopping 77% of the possession in the first half, but could only muster two shots on target out of 10 total efforts. In the second half, the pressure would finally pay off as the white-hot Paco Alcacer picked up a consolation on a corner in the 58th minute, heading in the goal on his first touch after coming off the bench to replace Iago Aspas. Alcacer has become an ultimate super-sub this season, scoring 10 goals for club and country in just 277 total minutes.
The home fans were livid when a penalty was not given as Jordan Pickford grappled with Rodrigo before completing a tackle in the 63rd minute, but only a corner was given. Spain pushed harder as the second half wore on, and Alcacer came close to a second with five minutes left as he struck a shot against his own man.
Spain bagged a second in the 97th minute with literally the final kick of the match, as Marco Asencio crashed a shot against the bar, and while Nathan Chalobah on his England debut cleared momentarily, it was sent back in by Dani Ceballos to the head of a diving Sergio Ramos. There was no more time for an equalizer, however, as the referee brought the game to an end even before the ensuing kickoff.
The competitive home loss is the first for Spain in 15 years, and it means England moves ahead of Spain to the top of Nations League League A Group 4 by a one-point margin.