Raheem Sterling’s late penalty gave England victory as they started their Uefa Nations League campaign in Iceland – despite the hosts squandering the chance to rescue a point by missing an injury-time spot-kick.
In an chaotic end to a largely dull encounter, Sterling looked to have secured three points for manager Gareth Southgate’s side when he rolled in an 89th-minute spot-kick after his shot was handled by Sverrir Ingason, who was then sent off after receiving a second yellow card.
England, who had earlier been reduced to 10 men after Kyle Walker was also sent off for second yellow card, had to survive that last-gasp scare when Iceland were awarded a penalty for Joe Gomez’s foul but Birkir Bjarnason was wildly off target.
England made hard work of the win against a stubborn and well-organised Iceland but were the better and more positive side.
Southgate’s team, playing their first game since the 4-0 win in Kosovo in November, showed understandable rustiness with the Premier League restart still a week away and England were frustrated further when Walker was dismissed for a second yellow card with 20 minutes left.
Walker’s recall was marred by his challenge on Arnor Traustason – but England had an even bigger cause for complaint when an early goal from captain Harry Kane was ruled out for offside. There was no VAR for this game and replays showed Kane was onside as he pounced on Sterling’s left-wing cross.
This was a lifeless affair behind closed doors against the side who humiliated England at Euro 2016 and Southgate will have learned little despite giving a debut to Manchester City’s Phil Foden and introducing Manchester United teenage striker Mason Greenwood for his debut late on – but he will take the victory before Tuesday’s game in Denmark