Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson both featured as England lost 2-1 to Spain on Saturday night, in a game marred by another serious injury to Luke Shaw.
The Three Lions began their pointless UEFA Nations League campaign against La Rioja, in their first outing since reaching the third-placed playoff at the World Cup.
With Gareth Southgate taking great encouragement from his side’s performances in Russia, he kept faith with the core of his squad, despite suggesting he would bring in new faces this month.
Shaw was one of few brought back into the fold, and the Man United full-back left the field on a stretcher and in a neck brace shortly after half-time, following a nasty collision with Dani Carvajal.
The hosts took the lead in the first half through Shaw’s United team-mate Marcus Rashford, but England were pegged back almost immediately by Saul.
They then went behind as Rodrigo turned home at the near post after a Spain free-kick, with Jordan Pickford left stranded by some slack defending.
And though backed by a packed-out Wembley and the tiresome England Band, Southgate’s side were unable to restore parity.
They thought they had in stoppage time, when Danny Welbeck clipped it in after David de Gea’s spill, but a bizarre decision from a referee out of his depth saw it ruled out.
Gomez started the game on the right-hand side of a back three, joining Harry Maguire in flanking central figure John Stones, and the 21-year-old continued his excellent form at centre-back.
Most notable was Gomez’s forward passing, with the Liverpool defender showcasing a rare ability, or perhaps willingness, to play vertically rather than horizontally.
Just ahead of him in midfield, Henderson fared reasonably, providing some useful balls over the top to utilise Rashford’s pace, but Sky Sports co-commentator Gary Neville was critical of his role in Rodrigo’s winner.
The Reds captain was brought off just after the hour mark, with Eric Dier taking his place, and football writer Daniel Storey noted a disparity in his performances for club and country:
Jordan Henderson very much continuing his international form. Good enough for Liverpool, consistent simple mistakes for England.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) September 8, 2018
It could be that Southgate is presiding over a power shift in the engine room, with Dier likely to start in Tuesday night’s friendly clash with Switzerland.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will also be hopeful of a place in the side at the King Power, having watched on as Keiran Trippier continued his run from the World Cup.
The key positive for Jurgen Klopp from this defeat is that neither Gomez or Henderson suffered any fitness issues at Wembley—with it wretched to see Shaw so unfortunate with injury again.