Raheem Sterling scored twice and Marcus Rashford another as England produced a stunning first-half display that saw the Three Lions’ lightning-quick attack tear overly-casual Spain to pieces in Seville.
After the dreary silence of Rijeka, England entered the Benito Villamarin to a cacophony of whistles from Spanish supporters in their UEFA Nations League encounter.
Those whistles turned to jeers after 12 minutes, when Eric Dier was booked for a full-blooded challenge on Sergio Ramos – despite the Spurs midfielder clearly winning the ball.
But four minutes later, the travelling Three Lions support erupted, as Sterling bludgeoned a clinical finish into the roof of the net, having been found through on goal by Rashford.
The Manchester City forward’s unerring finish past David de Gea was only his third international goal in 46 caps, and his first goal for his country in 1102 days; “We’re gonna win the league” sang the visiting faithful.
If it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek then, it certainly wasn’t come the 38rd minute, when England were three goals to the good.
After 29 minutes, Harry Kane held off two defenders before finding Rashford with superb through pass, and the striker, who scored against Spain at Wembley last month, found the back of the net.
And nine minutes later, another wonderful pass and off the ball run, this time from Ross Barkley, finding Kane, allowed the Spurs hitman to square and Sterling to fire home once more.
Too casual, Spain were stunned. England were rambunctious and on a rampage.
Spain came back strong in the second period and Paco Alcacer scored a fine header in the 58th minute, having entered the fray just 60 seconds previous.
And that led to a few edgy moments for the young Lions, most notably Jordan Pickford, who should have given away a penalty for tugging back Rodrigo having been mugged by the striker after taking too many touches.
After that, the young England side largely kept Spain at arm’s length, until Sergio Ramos turned home with a powerful header in the 97th minute.
That made it 3-2 but was the final act of a pulsating encounter, as England became the first side to defeat Spain in their own back yard since 2003.
Here are five talking points from Seville…
1. Seville shows Southgate only looking forwards
One thing you cannot say about Gareth Southgate is that the England boss is busy looking at what has gone.
Having led the side to a World Cup semi-final, it would have been easy for the Three Lions boss to stick with that team and the formation that proved successful in Russia.
But instead Southgate is moving forwards, looking towards the future and what he believes will give him and his side the greatest chance of success in the coming years.
That means a switch from three centre-backs back to a defensive quartet and a 4-3-3 formation, with the idea being that England need an extra man in central midfield to truly establish dominance and need to make the most of Raheem Sterling and a talented crop of young wingers coming through the ranks, such as Jadon Sancho.
Moreover, in the respective starting lineups, only one England player was over the age of 25 – Kieran Trippier – in what was the youngest England team of the 21st century.
2. Back to front
One thing that underpinned England’s style at the World Cup and since Southgate took charge has been a desire to play out from the back.
That philosophy underpins this England crop, but what they are also blessed with – particularly in attack – is blistering pace.
And in Seville, they showed how that explosiveness in attack, allied with direct vertical passing, can be deadly provided you have the right final pass and a composed finish.
That ability, to go direct between the lines into Kane, and then have runners off the Spurs striker, paid dividends for the opening two goals.
That pair, and the third, all featured excellent defence-splitting passes, via Messrs Rashford, Kane and Barkley also.
3. Raheem rejuvenated
He didn’t score during the World Cup, but Sterling’s position in the side was pretty much non-negotiable for Southgate, given his speed and off-the-ball movement.
The problem for most England fans during the competition was the lack of anything tangible at the end of his good work and a continued goalscoring drought.
That failure to notch was emphatically ended here, with Sterling showing the same ruthlessness in the penalty area which has become such a key facet of his game at the Etihad: already this season he’s registered four goals and two assists in the Premier League, a continuation on the 18 goals and 15 assists he tallied up last term.
In an England shirt, Sterling had failed to notch since 2015; for Southgate, there is an underlying determination to get more end product.
In Seville, he finally managed to do just that, and it was noticeable that they were the sort of goal were used to seeing him get for City – in behind, finishing after minimal touches (two for the first, one for the second).
Hopefully this is a watershed moment for the 23 year-old.
4. Clinical Alcacer
Paco Alcacer’s time at Barcelona was an absolute mess. There’s no other way of saying it, his switch from Valencia was not well thought out and he has effectively wasted two years of his career playing back up to Luis Suarez.
Having had enough of floundering in Catalunya, he joined Borussia Dortmund on an initial loan with a view to a permanent £23million switch in August; already, it seems unfathomable that the 25-year-old won’t join BVB for good.
Having arrived in the North Rhine with an injury, Alcacer has been eased into German life, making just one start thus far. But in four games, over a total 171 minutes, he has already bagged seven times.
For Spain, he has now bagged three goals in a week, taking his record for his country to 10 goals in 16 games.
5. Joe Gomez stands strong
Jurgen Klopp is a massive fan. Gareth Southgate is too. And now Joe Gomez is showing just why.
A young career that had been somewhat stalled by injury, the 21-year-old is now thriving for club and country.
Partnering Virgil van Dijk has seen him cast in some parts as Liverpool’s ‘junior’ centre-back, but he showed that he is much, much more than that with a display where he led by exampled and marshaled those around him.
Klopp’s decision to wait for him to overcome problems has been vindicated and on this evidence, it’s easy to see why Southgate is planning to make him a cornerstone of the England defence for years to come.Premium Content: To Subscribe to your favorite plan, sign up Here