Home / Teams / ‘We got lucky’ – Sterling relieved to make winning Nations League start after spot-kick heroics

‘We got lucky’ – Sterling relieved to make winning Nations League start after spot-kick heroics


The Manchester City star’s penalty earned the points for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions but the attacker admitted that his side were fortunate to win

Raheem Sterling has admitted that England rode their luck with their late victory in their Nations League opener over Iceland on Saturday – but the forward added that the team has “a bright future” ahead of them.

The Manchester City man was the hero in a frantic final five minutes in Reykjavik after a game marked by a relative pre-season rustiness sparked to life with penalties at either end of the pitch.

With captain Harry Kane substituted off, it was Sterling who stepped up to calmly bury his side’s spot-kick down the middle after he saw a shot handled in the box by Sverrir Ingi Ingason.

Yet England almost had to settle for a draw a moment later when Joe Gomez was cited for a foul at the opposite end on Holmbert Fridjonsson from the restart.

The Three Lions’ blushes were spared however – in a game where they amassed 78 per cent of possession and restricted their opponents just two shots – when Birkir Bjarnason’s subsequent effort was sent wildly over the top-right corner, to hand Gareth Southgate’s side three vital points in Group A2.

Sterling – one of three City players alongside debutant Phil Foden and returning defender Kyle Walker, who was sent off in the 70th minute for a second yellow card, in the starting XI – admitted that there was “sloppy” play late on, but that England mostly rose to the challenge they faced at Laugardalsvollur.

“It was tough but we got through it,” the 25-year-old told City’s website. “It was definitely strange but I’d rather play matches than training.

“We knew it would be difficult. We knew we had to challenge ourselves deep within. We kept playing our football, kept compact.

“We got the penalty, we shouldn’t have conceded that sloppy penalty, but we got lucky in the end. We have a bright future ahead and we need to keep growing as a team.”

Foden – who was one of two faces to win their first senior cap, alongside substitute Mason Greenwood – acquitted himself well in a game that frustrated England’s attack for long periods, and added that he hopes to push on to become a regular fixture at this level for Southgate.

“It feels amazing, a dream come true,” he said. “[It’s] a big moment for me and my family.

“It was a very difficult game, we defended well and showed great character. To get that win is massive. We all try to play our football. It was frustrating at times but we came through in the end.

“I want to keep playing for my country, not just [to be] a one off and, hopefully, I can keep the shirt.”

England next face Denmark in Copenhagen on Tuesday as they look to make it back-to-back wins after 10 months away from the international game.


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