Raheem Sterling scores twice in UEFA Nations League clash
Last Updated: 15/10/18 11:20pm
Gareth Southgate praised an “incredibly mature” and “brave” performance from England after they stunned Spain 3-2 in the UEFA Nations League on Monday.
Raheem Sterling scored twice either side of a goal from Marcus Rashford in a dazzling first-half display from England.
Spain struck back after the break but England held on to become the first side to beat Spain in a competitive game on home soil since 2003.
Southgate, who had named England’s youngest average starting XI in 59 years, told Sky Sports: “They should be incredibly proud of their performance.
“We spoke to the forward players in particular before the game to remind them what a threat they are. The three of them were outstanding and caused all kinds of problems. Then it was for the rest of the team to provide and be brave enough and I thought at times we did that really well.
“You have to accept at times we will concede possession in dangerous areas as we are encouraging people to take risks, but for a very young team I thought it was an incredibly mature performance. We withstood pressure reasonably well and they should all be very proud of what they have done.”
England only had 27 per cent of the possession and five shots compared to 23 from Spain.
But Southgate added: “We knew it would be unlikely to get a result if we came here and defended for 90 minutes, so we needed to be brave on the ball. We talked about the threat that our front three have, they need to believe in themselves, but then also we need to get the ball to them.
“We knew today the way that Spain press that we had to get the first couple of passes out. We ran the risk of losing the ball in front of goal but when we got out of that press we were a huge threat on the counter-attack. The quality of the play and the bravery of the players was the thing that pleased me the most.”
After losing to Spain at Wembley and drawing with Croatia on Friday, England were facing the prospect of relegation from UEFA Nations League A4.
However, victory over Spain means that, with one game to play against Croatia, England can still win the group and qualify for the Final Four next summer.
“I am delighted with what we have done and now we have to keep building on what we have done for the last few months,” added Southgate.
“People have chosen to analyse the summer as they see fit but what the players achieved was incredible. The next challenge is can we advance and can we look at a new system and young players.
“Some players have emerged that have given us a lot more options. The mentality of the players and staff has been outstanding and they have to enjoy tonight.”