England enjoyed one of their most memorable fixtures in recent memory on Monday evening with a counter-attacking performance of the highest quality which saw Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling finally end his hoodoo on the international stage.
Just the Anfield hoodoo to go now for Sterling after his first-half brace saw him double his goal-scoring tally at international level in the space of just 22 minutes. As they say: goals are like London buses, you wait ages for one and then two turn up at once.
Sterling had spoken in the build up to the game of his desire to find himself in goal-scoring positions rather than attempting flashy moments of skill on the touchline (via The Guardian).
“Before, I was going wide and trying to beat a player. Now I’m trying to get on the end of stuff, being around for scraps and trying to make goals for myself.”
The proof of Sterling’s conscious shift in style manifested itself in his performance as both goals saw him execute chances from positions which you would typically associate with a number 9, despite the fact Southgate deployed him in a more natural right-wing role to the number ten role he found himself restricted to in Russia.
It’s a move which clearly paid dividends for Southgate and it’s one which he is likely to stick with in the future.
Sterling’s release of frustration arrived after just 16 minutes. England kept the ball and sucked Spain deeper into their own territory before Jordan Pickford picked out Harry Kane over the top of the pressing red shirts, he released Marcus Rashford and the youngster delivered a deliciously weighted pass into the onrushing Sterling’s path and, with just De Gea to beat, he slammed the ball into the top corner.
That Sterling left his Manchester rival – widely regarded as the world’s best stopper – statuesque and in awe of his emphatically executed strike made his moment of relief taste all the sweeter.
Naturally, Sterling’s performance dominated the post-match narrative and BBC’s Phil McNulty was no exception to the rule.
In his post-match analysis McNulty said of Sterling.
‘No-one doubted his talent and application but where was the crucial end product?
‘Well here it was in all its glory and Sterling deserves every plaudit that will rightly come his way.
‘Sterling’s pace terrorised Spain but the glorious bonus was the two goals that doubled his tally from 45 previous England appearances.’
Following months, if not years of discussion concerning Sterling’s inability to find the back of the net for England, he answered his critics in sublime fashion and it should represent a watershed moment in his fledgling international career.
Sterling will never endure a drought as prolonged and his performance combined with the promising display by Ross Rarkley should ensure that he cements a place out wide where he is undisputedly at his most scintillating.
McNulty later added that ‘it was a complete display from Sterling’, and there can be no disagreeing with him after a masterclass display against high calibre opposition.
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