Relief for Gareth Southgate as Raheem Sterling saves 10-man England
England manager Gareth Southgate admitted that they "got away with it" after escaping another embarrassing result against Iceland, as Raheem Sterling's penalty secured a 1-0 win in their Nations League A, Group 2 opener yesterday morning (Singapore time).
After Sterling opened the scoring in the 91st minute, Birkir Bjarnason missed a spot-kick for the hosts as both sides were also reduced to 10 men in the final 20 minutes in Reykjavik.
Four years on from one of English football's most embarrassing nights in losing 2-1 to Iceland at Euro 2016, the Three Lions were far from the free-scoring force that romped through Euro 2020 qualifying in their first match for 10 months.
Southgate pinpointed a lack of match sharpness - with the new English Premier League season kicking off on Saturday - for an underwhelming performance, but insisted Kyle Walker and Joe Gomez must learn from mistakes that nearly cost them.
Recalled for the first time in a year, Walker's mistimed lunge 20 minutes from time left England a man down.
Then with the 10 men having finally broken the deadlock, Gomez was caught out of possession straight from kick-off and pulled down Holmbert Fridjonsson inside the area.
"The sending-off is a key moment because it is very difficult to win games when you go down to 10 men. It was an unnecessary red card," said Southgate, adding that it felt like they "got away with it".
Iceland coach Erik Hamren thought a draw would have been a fairer outcome.
Southgate handed an international debut to Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden in an experimental line-up, while Southampton's James Ward-Prowse got his first England start in a competitive fixture.
In the group's other game, Belgium defeated hosts Denmark 2-0, thanks goals by Jason Denayer and Dries Mertens . - AFP