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Sterling's best game? New hope? – England have lift-off

Raheem Sterling

Was this the moment that the Nations League went from “the most senseless competition in football” to earning a place in the hearts of England fans everywhere?

Few expected much from Gareth Southgate’s side as they travelled to take on Spain in Seville on Monday night, but instead the Three Lions were 3-0 up before half-time and on their way to a historic win at Estadio Benito Villamarin.

Spain had never before conceded three goals in a competitive home fixture, while Southgate – despite his World Cup heroics – had never before beaten an ‘elite’ side.

So, less than 100 days after the semi-final defeat by Croatia, is the future bright for England? Again?

Sterling’s best day yet?

Central to England’s clinical first-half display was Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who ended an 1,102-day goal drought on the international stage with a fine opener, burying Marcus Rashford’s pass for his first goal for England since 2015.

Sterling had had 34 shots for England between goals, hitting the target with just four attempts, but soon had his second of the night from Harry Kane’s knock-down.

Former England captain Terry Butcher said on BBC Radio 5 live that the game was “comfortably Sterling’s best in an England shirt”, with the 23-year-old revealing after the match that he had changed his approach.

He said: “There is nothing better than scoring in an England shirt.

“It was a beautiful feeling to score. I put pressure on myself – it’s my position to score goals. It means a lot to me. Three years is a long time not to score.

“As a forward you go through patches but I am now forgetting about looking nice, and just focusing on getting in behind and causing havoc.”

Aside from his goals, no England player made more passes in the Spain half (16) and only Tottenham pair Kieran Tripper and Harry Winks had more touches of the ball than his 46.

‘Exceptional’ England stop Spain

Winners of the 2008 and 2012 European Championship, with the 2010 World Cup sandwiched in between, Spain have a recent history of being serial winners. They just do not like losing.

Aside from their exit on penalties against hosts Russia at the World Cup in the summer, their last defeat in a competitive match came against Italy in the knockout stages of Euro 2016.

Then Southgate and his boys came along.

England rattled Spain by becoming the first side to put three goals past them in a competitive home international, while ending their 38-game unbeaten run on their own patch stretching back to 2003.

The Three Lions also recorded their first victory away against Spain since February 1987, when Gary Lineker scored all four goals in a 4-2 win.

Spanish football expert Guillem Balague told BBC Radio 5 live: “This is verging on exceptional for England – they have success at the youth ages and they now have a style of play, they now have a clear selection policy.

“Even without Jordan Henderson and John Stones they don’t look worried, they look comfortable.”

New players, new hope?

Gareth Southgate has talked up England’s next generation of players and while he avoided the temptation to introduce them en masse, his line-up against Spain had an average age of just over 23.

It represented England’s youngest team for a competitive fixture since 1959 and the likes of Winks and Joe Gomez both repaid his faith.

With Liverpool’s 28-year-old captain Henderson suspended along with Manchester City’s Stones, Winks, 22, and Gomez, 24 stepped into the breach.

Henderson, who has played in four major tournaments, has earned 47 caps, while Stones has 36. In comparison, this was only Winks’ second appearance and a world away from his debut against Lithuania over a year ago, while Gomez was collecting just his fifth cap.

Neither let Southgate down. Winks had the second most touches of any England player, while the Liverpool defender looked composed in defence, adding to fine performances against Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands.

At 23, there is also the promise that Sterling – one of the side’s most experienced performers as he closes in on his 50th cap – and Marcus Rashford, 20, who has scored three goals in his past four starts, can offer a speedy foil to Kane.

“The squad is fresher, it’s younger, the players believe in Southgate, there’s something different about this squad but we’ve still got good players like Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard to come back,” said Butcher.

So where does this win rank?

While this is undoubtedly the standout performance of Southgate’s England tenure, where does it rank among results from the past 18 years?

We’ve selected seven of the best since 2000 – have a go at ranking them.

Best England performance?

Rank England’s best performances since 2000

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Dzeko double sends Northern Ireland to third straight Nations League defeat

George Saville and Muhamed Besic vie for possession at Stadion Grbavica

Northern Ireland suffered a third Nations League defeat in a row as an Edin Dzeko double gave Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-0 win in Sarajevo.

The Roma striker scored a goal in each half to leave Michael O’Neill’s men without a point in Group B3 and in grave danger of relegation to Group C.

Bosnia are well placed for promotion with three wins from three matches.

George Saville and Gavin Whyte (twice) struck the post for NI, who are without a win in seven competitive matches.

O’Neill’s men have drawn one and lost seven of those games, comprising World Cup qualifying fixtures and Nations League matches, scoring just two goals in the process.

Northern Ireland have failed to score in nine of their most recent 11 away games, including the last six in a row.

Their last goal on their travels was a Steven Davis penalty in a 3-0 victory over San Marino 13 months ago.

Northern Ireland have won just two of their past 11 games but in contrast Bosnia are unbeaten in eight outings, having lost just one of 12 competitive games at home.

A point against Austria in their 15 November meeting in Vienna would ensure that the Bosnians win the group, with NI face the Austrians in their final game in the competition on 18 November, having lost to Franco Foda’s side 1-0 last week.

Euro 2020 qualification the target

Prior to this game NI manager O’Neill was at pains to point out that his squad is one in transition and that his priority was developing a team capable of securing qualification for a second consecutive European Championships in 2020.

His side paid heed to his pre-match exhortations to be more competitive than they were against Austria three days ago and with more clinical finishing could have come away with at least a point.

Saville badly scuffed an attempted side-footed volley wide of the goal from 10 yards out after getting on the end of Steven Davis’s right-wing cross and being left unmarked inside the area.

The Middlesbrough midfielder then saw his swivelling shot from Jamal Lewis’s left-wing cross rebound off the post, while in the second half his drive was denied by a fine diving save from Ibrahim Sehic.

Substitute Gavin Whyte had a header from a Stuart Dallas delivery pushed away by Sehic and when the ball fell to him six yards out the Oxford winger could only hit the post with the goal at his mercy.

Whyte, who had marked his introduction to international football against Israel last month by scoring with his first touch of the ball, also fired a deflected effort against the upright in the final minute.

Corry Evans was handed the captain’s armband on the occasion of his 50th cap while Liam Boyce produced an impressive performance in a lone central striking role, having been passed fit to play in place of Josh Magennis who had played in Austria.

More to follow.

Line-ups

Bos-Herze

  • 12Sehic
  • 6Vranjes
  • 15Sunjic
  • 17Zukanovic
  • 2Civic
  • 7BesicBooked at 84minsSubstituted forCimirotat 90′minutes
  • 10Pjanic
  • 21Saric
  • 8ViscaSubstituted forMilosevicat 88′minutes
  • 11Dzeko
  • 9DuljevicBooked at 70minsSubstituted forZakaricat 75′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Begovic
  • 4Todorovic
  • 5Nastic
  • 13Cimirot
  • 14Prcic
  • 16Bajic
  • 18Kodro
  • 19Krunic
  • 20Zakaric
  • 22Kjosevski
  • 23Milosevic

Northern Ireland

  • 1Peacock-Farrell
  • 17McNairSubstituted forVassellat 71′minutes
  • 20Cathcart
  • 5Evans
  • 3Lewis
  • 16NorwoodBooked at 33minsSubstituted forWhyteat 58′minutes
  • 13Evans
  • 8Davis
  • 6SavilleBooked at 58mins
  • 14Dallas
  • 10BoyceSubstituted forMagennisat 80′minutes

Substitutes

  • 2McLaughlin
  • 4Smith
  • 7Whyte
  • 11Ferguson
  • 12Carson
  • 15Jones
  • 18Hughes
  • 19Vassell
  • 21Magennis
  • 22Flanagan
  • 23McGovern
Referee:
Mattias Gestranius

Match Stats

Home TeamBos-HerzeAway TeamNorthern Ireland
Possession
Home55%
Away45%
Shots
Home17
Away11
Shots on Target
Home4
Away3
Corners
Home5
Away2
Fouls
Home13
Away12

Live Text

Posted at

Match ends, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2, Northern Ireland 0.

Full Time

Posted at 90’+5′

Second Half ends, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2, Northern Ireland 0.

Posted at 90’+4′

Elvis Saric (Bosnia and Herzegovina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 90’+4′

Foul by George Saville (Northern Ireland).

Posted at 90’+2′

Corner, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Conceded by Jamal Lewis.

Posted at 90’+1′

Goran Zakaric (Bosnia and Herzegovina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 90’+1′

Foul by Jamal Lewis (Northern Ireland).

Substitution

Posted at 90′

Substitution, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Gojko Cimirot replaces Muhamed Besic.

Posted at 89′

Goran Zakaric (Bosnia and Herzegovina) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Posted at 89′

Foul by Jamal Lewis (Northern Ireland).

Posted at 88′

Hand ball by Goran Zakaric (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Substitution

Posted at 88′

Substitution, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Deni Milosevic replaces Edin Visca.

Posted at 87′

Attempt missed. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Eldar Civic with a cross.

Posted at 87′

Attempt saved. Craig Cathcart (Northern Ireland) header from the right side of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Stuart Dallas with a cross.

Posted at 86′

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Ibrahim Sehic.

Posted at 86′

Attempt saved. George Saville (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner.

Booking

Posted at 84′

Muhamed Besic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Posted at 84′

Foul by Muhamed Besic (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Posted at 84′

George Saville (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Posted at 83′

Attempt missed. Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

Posted at 82′

Attempt blocked. Eldar Civic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Posted at 81′

Corner, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Conceded by Jamal Lewis.

Posted at 81′

Muhamed Besic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Posted at 81′

Foul by Steven Davis (Northern Ireland).

Substitution

Posted at 80′

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Josh Magennis replaces Liam Boyce.

Posted at 78′

Corner, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Conceded by Jonny Evans.

Posted at 78′

Attempt blocked. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Miralem Pjanic with a cross.

Posted at 77′

Corner, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Conceded by Jamal Lewis.

Posted at 77′

Attempt blocked. Edin Visca (Bosnia and Herzegovina) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is blocked. Assisted by Miralem Pjanic.

Posted at 75′

Attempt blocked. Edin Visca (Bosnia and Herzegovina) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Substitution

Posted at 75′

Substitution, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Goran Zakaric replaces Haris Duljevic.

Goal!

Posted at 73′

Goal! Bosnia and Herzegovina 2, Northern Ireland 0. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina) right footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Miralem Pjanic with a through ball.

Posted at 72′

Ognjen Vranjes (Bosnia and Herzegovina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 72′

Foul by Kyle Vassell (Northern Ireland).

Substitution

Posted at 71′

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Kyle Vassell replaces Paddy McNair.

Posted at 71′

Offside, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ervin Zukanovic tries a through ball, but Haris Duljevic is caught offside.

Booking

Posted at 70′

Haris Duljevic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Posted at 69′

Foul by Haris Duljevic (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Posted at 69′

Paddy McNair (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Posted at 65′

Foul by Elvis Saric (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

goal

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