A little over a month ago, in one of the first ever UEFA Nations League matches, team-in-crisis Spain waltzed into Wembley and taught England’s new hope a lesson. The scoreline may have been only 2-1 on that fine early September evening, but Spain’s dominance was fairly complete. That result was all the more surprising given England’s revival in Russia, finishing fourth in the World Cup thanks to promising performances that rose well above expectations, and Spain’s absolute disaster of a summer, starting with the sacking of Lopetegui just days prior to the tournament.
Today, the tables have turned yet again. Following on from a dour 0-0 draw against Croatia — the type of match that the Nations League was supposed to prevent — not many expected England to give a great account of themselves, let alone absolutely destroy Spain on the counter and record a famous 3-2 win. Spain had not lost a home international in something like 15 years and they hadn’t actually lost an international game in two years (their elimination in the World Cup happened via a penalty kick shootout).
Spain lose for the first time since a 2-0 defeat against Italy at EURO 2016, ending a 27-match unbeaten streak. France (14) are now on the longest running unbeaten run in international football. #ESPENG #NationsLeague— Gracenote Live (@GracenoteLive) October 15, 2018
It wasn’t all just defend deep and counter either. For the first 20 minutes, England were on the front foot, looking for the opening goal. Once they got it — Raheem Sterling finally ending his ridiculous England goal-drought — they became a bit more conservative, but Spain certainly had something to do with that as well. As Spain probed and possessed and probed some more, England stood strong and countered with ruthless efficiency. A second goal from Marcus Rashford, and then another from Sterling made it 3-0 before half-time and few could believe their eyes. Ross Barkley, who started his second match in a row for England and had an excellent game, box-to-box in midfield, provided a tremendous secondary assist on that third goal.
Ross Barkley with a peach to start this! Folks, he’s starting to actually look good. pic.twitter.com/ecYgcdWUMX— Alex Goldberg (@AlexGoldberg_) October 15, 2018
The second half was more of the same, with Paco Alcacer getting one back for the hosts before Jordan Pickford almost destroyed everything by doing his best impression of Alisson Becker inside his own area, losing the ball, then dragging the Spanish player back. Fortunately, the referee appeared to really not like Spain — see also the calls against second half substitute Morata, including the yellow at the end for dissent, and letting Dier’s hilarious reducer on Ramos go with a yellow — and let off Pickford with a corner.
Marcos Alonso played the whole game at left back for Spain and hit the post in the dying moments, before Ramos made it 3-2 with literally the last touch of the ball.
Just before then, former Chelsea youth star Nathaniel Chalobah made his senior England debut. Congrats to him!
With the win, Group 4 of the Nations League A remains wide open, and any of Spain, England, or Croatia could still win it. Spain have assured themselves of not being “relegated” to League B already however.