UEFA Nations League

Heavyweights enjoy winning starts

Afp, Paris

7 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

European heavyweights England, France, holders Portugal and Belgium all enjoyed winning starts to their UEFA Nations League campaigns on Saturday even if there were signs of international rust after the coronavirus shutdown.

England needed a stoppage-time penalty to beat Iceland 1-0 while world champions France saw off Sweden by the same scoreline. Portugal shrugged off the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo to thrash Croatia 4-1 with top-ranked Belgium coming away from Denmark with a 2-0 win.

In Reykjavik, Raheem Sterling's last minute penalty salvaged England from another embarrassing result against Iceland.

Gareth Southgate's men also survived going down to 10 men and seeing Birkir Bjarnason miss a late spot-kick for the hosts.

Four years on from one of English football's most embarrassing nights in losing 2-1 to Iceland at Euro 2016, England were far from the free-scoring force that romped through Euro 2020 qualifying in their first match for 10 months.

Harry Kane had an early goal wrongly ruled out for offside before Kyle Walker was sent-off for two bookable offences 20 minutes from time.

All of Iceland's good defensive work was undone in the 89th minute when Sverrir Ingason was also harshly dismissed for a second booking when he blocked Sterling's shot with his arm.

With Kane having been replaced by Mason Greenwood, Sterling took responsibility from spot, but the drama did not end there.

Straight from kick-off, Joe Gomez was adjudged to have bundled over Holmbert Fridjonsson inside the area, but Bjarnason blazed the resulting penalty over.

"The sending off is a key moment because it is very difficult to win games of football when you go down to 10 men. It was an unnecessary red card," said Southgate of Walker's dismissal.


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