England 1-2 Spain: Luke Shaw, Joe Gomez and Marcus Rashford verdict

Marcus Rashford scores but Luke Shaw goes off with head injury

England's striker Marcus Rashford (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the UEFA Nations League football match between England and Spain at Wembley Stadium in London on September 8, 2018.

England’s World Cup stars were back in action during their narrow 2-1 defeat by Spain at Wembley on Saturday but there were three changes from the side that started the semi-final epic against Croatia.

Marcus Rashford featured from the bench in that game but he was included from the start, while Luke Shaw and Joe Gomez, not among the squad in Russia, both came straight into the team for this one.

It proved an eventful night for the trio but how exactly did they get on?

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Watch highlights of England's 2-1 home defeat to Spain at Wembley

Mixed night from Shaw

Gareth Southgate had outlined what he hoped Shaw would bring in his pre-match interview. "The obvious thing is the balance of a natural left-footer," the England manager told Sky Sports. "We are looking for that as an outlet to drive forward and provide some natural width. It will maybe give us some earlier delivery with crossing opportunities."

On his first international appearance in 17 months, Shaw showed just that. After producing a vital tackle at the other end of the pitch, he advanced with purpose before collecting the ball and threading it through to Rashford for the opener. It was the sort of penetration that Southgate had been looking for and Shaw justified his pick in that one moment.

It did not go so well for the Manchester United left-back after that. Shaw dived in on Dani Carvajal in the build-up to the equaliser, missing his man, and when he did catch him later in the half it earned him a yellow card. Early in the second half, a worrying head injury saw him replaced by Danny Rose. Fortunately, he soon improved and so have his England prospects.

Gareth Southgate's verdict: "Thankfully, it looks like Luke is up and talking but it needs to be assessed. It was a great ball for the goal."

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Did Rashford do enough?

Rashford was clinical enough in getting his goal but he did have two clear opportunities to add to his tally that were not taken. By the time he was substituted late on, the young Manchester United forward may well have been wondering whether he had done enough to seize his chance in the absence of the injured Raheem Sterling.

His unchallenged header in the first half was brilliantly saved by David de Gea but perhaps the goalkeeper should have been left with no chance to make the stop. That was certainly the case with his 81st-minute effort as Rashford, after a superb first-touch, scuffed his effort straight at his club colleague. United favourite Gary Neville felt he would be disappointed.

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"He won't be happy with himself, Marcus Rashford," said Neville on co-commentary. "He has to set it out wide of David de Gea or pull it back into the near post. He goes right at him. He just snatches at it. The play is brilliant, the run is good but it isn't a good finish. That's the bit he has to work on, just composing himself and having an idea what his finish is."

Gareth Southgate's verdict: "He has scored, had a great save from the header and got through on the other chance. For a young striker, he has had a really good impact on the game."

Positive signs for Gomez

The introduction of Shaw and Rashford had been expected but it was a little more surprising that Gomez also managed to force his way into Southgate's starting line-up ahead of Kyle Walker. Fortunately, the Liverpool defender gave a good account of himself, building on his strong start to the season at club level with a positive contribution at Wembley.

Joe Gomez and Isco battle at Wembley
Image: Joe Gomez faced a tough test against Spain but came through it well

It was not all straightforward for the youngster. There was an early misplaced pass and his defending was described as "a little naïve" by Neville when he had a nibble at his man and conceded a free-kick in a dangerous area. However, that opportunity for Spain came to nothing and Gomez grew into the game thereafter.

Indeed, he not only finished the match with a pass completion rate of 94.1 per cent - the best of anyone in England's starting line-up - but Gomez also came up with a vital last-ditch challenge to prevent Spain from doubling their lead late on. He is well suited to the role on the right of the back three and has shown he can be trusted there.

Southgate's verdict: "I thought Gomez's defending was excellent. Really, very, very good. So individually there were a lot of positives for us."

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