England narrowly beaten by Spain in UEFA Nations League opener

Saturday 08 Sep 2018
Spain came from behind to grab all three points at Wembley Stadium

England were narrowly beaten by Spain in their UEFA Nations League opener on Saturday night.

Marcus Rashford put Gareth Southgate’s side ahead with a close-range finish on 11 minutes.

But the visitors hit back immediately when Saul Niguez swept home Rodrigo’s pull back.

And Valencia forward Rodrigo sealed the victory with an impudent finish at the near post, steering home Thiago’s in-swinging free-kick.

And here are five talking points from an entertaining game at Wembley:

Back to the future

It was well documented that England had one of the youngest squads in Russia, giving Southgate plenty of reason for optimism over the next few years.

England 1-2 Spain
  • UEFA Nations League
  • League A, Group 4
  • Saturday 8 September
  • at Wembley Stadium
And the manager provided further evidence that he’s not afraid to give youth a chance by adding 21-year-old Joe Gomez and 23-year-old Luke Shaw to his starting line-up.

Captain Harry Kane, who is only 24 himself, was presented with the World Cup Golden Boot before kick-off, but Rashford, 20, reminded everyone of his potential with his instinctive finish.

Kane collects his Golden Boot

He twice came close to doubling his tally but was denied on both occasions by his Manchester United club mate David de Gea.

Unlucky Luke warms to Wembley

Shaw made his first England appearance since March 2017 – and it took him just over ten minutes to have an impact.

Deployed as a left wing-back, the 23-year-old was found in space by Harry Kane. Shaw carried the ball forward and then picked out Rashford with an inch-perfect pass.

Rashford didn’t have to break stride and had the easiest task of finishing first time past de Gea from close range to give the Three Lions the lead.

Luke Shaw laid the opening goal on a plate for Marcus Rashford

Sadly for Shaw, whose fledgling career has been blighted by injury, an innocuous collision with Dani Carvajal early in the second half brought a premature end to his England comeback – and he was carried off the pitch to a generous round of applause.

Danny denied

Substitute Danny Welbeck, on for Rashford, thought he had earned England a point in the seventh minute of added time, only to be denied by referee Danny Makkelie.

Spain captain Sergio Ramos miskicked a clearance up into the air and Welbeck was well within his rights to challenge for it with de Gea.

The two came together, de Gea dropped the ball and Welbeck turned it home, seemingly for the equaliser.

But Makkelie ruled it out, adjudging Welbeck to have impeded his former United team-mate, much to England’s dismay.

Welbeck had another chance at the death but he headed Joe Gomez’s long throw over the bar.

Welcome home

This was England’s first home game since reaching the semi-finals of Russia 2018 – and the first time the fans could congratulate their heroes in person.

More than 80,000 people packed into Wembley Stadium to welcome home the Three Lions and they were in good voice throughout, with flags being waved and ‘Football’s coming home again’ being sung continuously.

Fans young and old are once again in love with the Three Lions

The country is still very much in love with the national team.

Nations League focus

The aim of the new UEFA Nations League is to provide international teams with a more competitive focus.

Although England lost here, they have three more matches before the end of the year in which to pick up some points – home and away to World Cup finalists Croatia with another match against Spain, in Seville, sandwiched in between.

The team who finishes top of League A, Group 4 will qualify for the four-team UEFA Nations League finals next June.

England are back on Tuesday night when they host Switzerland at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium.


England (3-5-2): 1 Jordan Pickford (Everton); 4 Joe Gomez (Liverpool), 5 John Stones (Manchester City), 6 Harry Maguire (Leicester City); 2 Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), 8 Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), 11 Dele (Tottenham Hotspur), 7 Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), 3 Luke Shaw (Manchester United); 10 Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), 9 Harry Kane (capt; Tottenham Hotspur).

Substitutes: 15 Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur) for Shaw 54, 17 Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur) for Henderson 64, 20 Danny Welbeck (Arsenal) for Rashford 90+4.

Substitutes not used: 12 Kyle Walker (Manchester City), 13 Jack Butland (Stoke City), 14 Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), 16 James Tarkowski (Burnley), 18 Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), 19 Fabian Delph (Manchester City), 21 Alex McCarthy (Crystal Palace), 22 Marcus Bettinelli (Fulham).

Goal: Rashford 11

Bookings: Henderson, Shaw, Stones, Rose.

Manager: Gareth Southgate

Spain (4-3-3): 1 David de Gea; 2 Dani Carvajal, 4 Nacho, 15 Sergio Ramos (capt), 12 Marcos Alonso; 10 Thiago Alcantara, 5 Sergio Busquets, 8 Saul Niguez; 9 Rodrigo, 17 Iago Aspas, 22 Isco.

Substitutes: 20 Marcos Asensio for Aspas 69, 19 Sergio Roberto for Alcantara 80, 6 Inigo Martinez for Alonso 88.

Substitutes not used: 3 Raul Albiol, 7 Alvaro Morata, 11 Suso, 13 Kepa Arrizabalaga14 Cesar Azpilicueta, 16 Rodri, 18 Jose Gaya, 21 Daniel Dani Ceballos, 23 Pau.

Goals: Saul 13, Rodrigo 32

Bookings: Carvajal

Head coach: Luis Enrique

Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED)

Attendance: 81,392

By Glenn Lavery at Wembley Stadium