ENGLAND stunned Spain in one of the most memorable England wins for many a year.
Raheem Sterling scored two goals in the opening 45 minutes, having only scored twice in his previous 45 international appearances, and Marcus Rashford swept home in an extraordinary first half at Real Betis’s Estadio Benito Villamarin.
Clinical, bold and a joy to behold, talk of relegation from the Nations League’s top tier was replaced by hope of perhaps even making the finals after a victory that for a while had shades of the 2001 win in Germany about it.
Paco Alcacer netted shortly after his second-half introduction to ratchet up the pressure, but although Sergio Ramos scored with the last act of the game manager Gareth Southgate’s young side passed this test of resilience.
England’s maiden Nations League win will not be forgotten in a hurry, with Spain conceding three goals in a competitive home match for the first time as the Three Lions were rewarded for their first-half display of defiance and skill in Seville.
Sterling ended a superb team move – and his 1,102-day wait for an international goal – in the 16th minute, with Rashford then getting in on the act having missed two glaring opportunities in Friday’s goalless Group A4 draw in Croatia.
Southgate’s men kept their foot down and grabbed a third as Ross Barkley’s superb ball was directed across by Harry Kane for Sterling to score on a night that got jittery once Alcacer reduced the deficit in the 57th minute.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford – key in England’s opening two goals – nearly played himself into trouble and there were some other nervy moments, with Ramos heading home at the end of a match that saw Southgate’s men display strength and a streetwise edge that belied their inexperience.
It was an amazing end to a day that had started with the Football Association condemning the visiting fans that had run amok overnight in Seville.
Spain started the brighter and put England’s new-look four-man defence under intense early pressure.
An excellent, albeit inadvertent save from Pickford denied Marcos Alonso, with Marco Asensio also stopped by a goalkeeper capable of starting attacks from the back.
Pickford produced a pass under pressure of which Spain’s midfield maestros would be proud to find Kane in the 16th minute.
The England captain spread the ball wide to Rashford, who sent a lovely ball into Sterling. The forward raced in and lashed across helpless David de Gea, pointing to his ear after scoring his first goal since October 2015.
Spain’s attempts to level were quickly punished as Pickford’s quickfire ball out was controlled by Kane.
His brilliant ball found Rashford and the forward fired past Manchester United team-mate de Gea.
Sterling was nearly through again as England pushed for a third first-half goal, which arrived to the astonishment of those in attendance.
Barkley’s superb clipped pass put Kane in behind to direct over for Sterling to slide home the third.
Half-time whistles nearly drowned out chants of “easy, easy” and, unsurprisingly, the second half was anything but for the visitors.
Saul Niguez rifled over before Asensio’s turn and strike was taken into the side-netting by Joe Gomez.
Sterling went down under a challenge from Wolves’ Jonny Otto at the other end before Pickford denied Saul.
Spain’s mounting pressure told in the 57th minute as a needless corner was turned home by substitute Alcacer, thanks in no small part to poor defending.
An amazing din welcomed a goal that increased the pressure on this young England side with Pickford nearly embarrassed in the 63rd minute.
Rodrigo read his turn in his own box and robbed the goalkeeper of possession, yet he somehow got back to get in a tackle to deny the Spain striker.
Tempers frayed as Polish referee Szymon Marciniak ignored boisterous penalty appeals.
Pickford’s goal was under siege as England reverted to a back-five with Alvaro Morata unable to turn home as Southgate brought Nathaniel Chalobah on for his debut.
Alcacer headed over and the bar was rattled again before Ramos scored – the final action of an amazing night.