Gareth Southgate takes positives from England's Nations League defeat to Spain

Saturday 08 Sep 2018
Gareth Southgate and assistant coach Steve Holland watch on during the game with Spain

England boss Gareth Southgate believes his side are on the right track, despite Saturday’s defeat against Spain at Wembley.

The Three Lions’ UEFA Nations League opener got off to the best start when Marcus Rashford put England ahead in the early stages of an entertaining contest.

England 1-2 Spain
  • UEFA Nations League
  • Saturday 8 September
  • Wembley Stadium connected by EE
  • Live on Sky Sports

But goals from Saul Niguez and Rodrigo proved enough for Spain to bounce back and secure victory in new boss Luis Enrique’s first game in charge.

"It was a really tough game,” said Southgate.

“They are a top, top side and I think for spells kept the ball incredibly well, pressed us and we didn’t keep the ball in the early part of the game well enough.

"But I've got to give the players enormous credit because it was a game where we could’ve folded and disappeared but we didn't.

"We hung in there and in the last 25 or 30 minutes we really came into the game, kept the ball a lot better and created some good chances and could well have got a draw out of it.

"We're under no illusions that Spain were the better team for long periods of that but they are brilliant at what they do and we are in the early stages of what we're trying to do.

"They pressed extremely well and it took us a while to work out where that press was coming from and find a solution to it. We did it a couple of times but at the moment we're still finding our feet in playing out from those areas.

England celebrate Marcus Rashford's opening goal at Wembley

"Now we have a choice. We can either go back to our old style and we'll never be a top team, or we can keep trying to do what we do and suffer at times.

"We have got some players who can do it, others who are improving at it and for me it's the way I believe we should play.

"They have a system in Spain that has produced some of the best midfield players in the world ever. At the moment we have a different profile of player, we can't play the way that they want to play.

"It takes time. We've come a long way in a short space of time and today was as tough a test as you could have against a team that presses like that and are so good in possession.

"I think at the moment we have to stick with the plan, stick with what we're doing and just get better at doing it."

Southgate’s team included the returning Luke Shaw and Joe Gomez, with both players impressing as Shaw set up Rashford’s opener and Gomez looking composed throughout.

Unfortunately, Shaw’s night came to an early end after he was stretchered off following a clash of heads with Dani Carvajal.

"Luke is up and talking, but needs to assessed,” revealed Southgate.

"But I thought Gomez's defending was exceptional. So there's a lot of good individual positives for us and for me, as a collective, they gave everything to get back into the game and I have to commend them for that."

The Three Lions now head back to St. George’s Park, where they will turn their attention to Tuesday’s game with Switzerland at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium.

Tickets for the game are still on sale.

By FA Staff