Liverpool centre-back Joe Gomez played the full 90 minutes and impressed as England won 1-0 in Iceland in the UEFA Nations League.
While the match itself was far from a thrilling spectacle until the closing stages, as has often been the case on the international scene with the Three Lions, there were a few more mitigating circumstances than usual for a stodgy 90 minutes.
Iceland sat back without much intent to attack, shorn of several usual starters, while England’s lineup was equally as unfamiliar; of the seven defenders and midfielders, at most two might be expected to start from a full-strength lineup.
Gomez is one of them, and showed why with a dominant display—though he almost cost the team two points late on.
He was essentially starting here as England’s most senior defender, with partner Eric Dier in the side for the first time in two seasons, Kyle Walker at right-back doing the same and Kieran Trippier pushed out of position on the left.
Early on Gomez was called upon to make a vital interception on a through-pass, which would otherwise have left Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford exposed in a one-on-one situation.
He also showed decent aerial dominance against both set-pieces and the home side’s long throws, while his trademark composure on the ball was also seen more than once, side-stepping challenges to play out of defence.
Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold was named as sub, unsurprising given his lack of pre-season action, but he was called upon from the bench after 73 minutes after Walker was shown a red card.
With no left-backs named in the England squad, this essentially confirms that Trent will play against Denmark on Tuesday—his only start before the Premier League gets underway next weekend.
Ex-Red Raheem Sterling won and converted a 90th-minute penalty to put England ahead in stoppage time, but immediately after the restart a long ball forward saw Gomez clip the heels of an Icelandic forward, conceding a spot-kick of his own.
Birkir Bjarnason, however, skied his effort high and wide, meaning Gomez was let off the hook and England took the three points.
Another former Liverpool player, Danny Ings, came off the bench for Gareth Southgate’s team, his first international cap since mid-October 2015—just days before Jurgen Klopp took over with the Reds and Ings picked up a long-term knee injury.
A third former Anfield hopeful was an unused sub, Conor Coady, while Iceland had their own ex-Red in the team, Victor Palsson, who was at the Academy towards the end of the Rafa Benitez era.