Iceland 0 England 1: Three Lions earn narrow win through Sterling penalty before late penalty miss spares blushes

WE HAD to wait ten months for the return of international football.

And after this performance in Iceland, it probably would not be a bad thing if we had to wait another ten months for another England game.

Once again, the team chucked in a dismal display against a country with a population of 360,000.

Against the nation which brought us the synchronised thunderclap. England were just a bit c**p.

Raheem Sterling won it in the last minute with a penalty, awarded after a handball by Sverrir Ingason.

The Icelander was sent off for a second booking.

Moments later Joe Gomez gave away a spot-kick after tangling with Albert Gudmundsson.

But Birkir Bjarnason skied his penalty over Jordan Pickford’s goal.

This was not as bad as the 2-1 defeat in Nice in the last 16 of Euro 2016.

Nothing will get near that.

There were very few positives. Kyle Walker — playing his first England game for 15 months — was sent off with 20 minutes left after a rash challenge on Arnor Ingvi Traustason.

There was also a quiet debut for Phil Foden while Declan Rice struggled in defensive midfield.

Now England will stay here until tomorrow before heading to Copenhagen for Tuesday’s Nations League game against Denmark.

The preparations for this game, as the players have only just returned from their holidays, was not ideal for manager Gareth Southgate — but it was the same for both teams.

And it proved that this exciting young team still have a lot to learn and at times, this seemed like a case of deja vu as we were transported back to the Roy Hodgson era.

Purely from a football perspective, it was probably a good job Southgate — albeit for tragic reasons — has plenty of more time to work on this team ahead of Euro 2020.

Such was the lack of pace and intensity, it looked as though England’s players were at the end of a long season, rather than at the start.

And this could have been another nail in the coffin for Southgate’s 4-4-2 system and if a back-three works on Tuesday, we could see this formation kept for the duration.

At the back, apart from the odd scare, England defended well but offensively, they were so poor.

In Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling, you have a strikeforce with a value well in excess of £300million.

Iceland had Millwall’s Jon Dadi Bodvarsson up front.

England’s Nations League game against Croatia was played behind closed doors in October 2018 due to the home nation being punished by Uefa for racism.

Back then, we all expected it would be unlikely for another match to be played without fans.

But less than two years later, Southgate’s team were once again playing in an eerily quiet stadium.

In Rijeka, about 50 fans watched the game from the top of a hill which overlooked the pitch.

Although only a handful of fans came to watch Reykjavik due to the five-day quarantine rule, there were approaching 100 who watched through the fence and had a half-decent view.

Normally, the away end is full of flags representing clubs from around England although  curiously, someone was able to smuggle a West Brom one inside the stadium.

Iceland’s preparations were hardly helped by the fact they were without arguably their best five players in Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and Burnley’s Johann Berg Gudmondson.

The pair had been put under pressure by their clubs to pull out.

And there was another blow when Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, the matchwinner in Nice four years ago, suffered an injury in the warm-up.

England also had a fair amount of injury problems with left-back a particular problem.

The reason why Southgate did not select a left-back was obviously because he switched across Kieran Trippier, who has previously played in that position for Spurs.

Playing their first game since winning in Kosovo ten months ago, Kane stuck Sterling’s cross into the net from about yard although it was ruled out for offside.

It was a tight call. Although there was no VAR, he looked onside.

Iceland skipper Kari Arnason seemed to be playing onside and it looked as though the sun was shining in the linesman’s eyes.

Yet despite a half-decent opening 15 minutes, England faded.

Iceland packed the central midfield and invited the visitors to put the ball wide.

Walker shouted at his team-mates: “Move the ball quickly!” Meanwhile, manager Southgate, watching in his technical area with hands in pockets, looked on without saying much.

There were a few half-chances while Rice kicked the ball against his own leg when in a good position.

Even though he has just three goals to his name at West Ham, he will expect to do better than that.

Keeper Pickford — now fighting for his place as No 1 — gave England a nervous moment by making a wrong choice and rushing off his line to block an attack.

Unlike the equaliser during that embarrassing display in Nice, England dealt better with Iceland’s trademark long throws but the home side still finished the first half much stronger.

Sancho and Sterling had swapped sides but still struggled to cause too many problems.

The second half was the same, with very little being created and then Walker picked up his second booking with a silly tackle.

The penalty for Ingason’s handball was a harsh decision but Sterling delivered a decent finish.

And Gomez’s foul on Gudmundsson was also debatable.

Mason Greenwood was handed a debut with 13 minutes left but Southgate’s side kept playing the ball sideways.

And for the time being at least, this England team is not moving forward much, either.

Source: Read Full Article