It was a disappointing Saturday evening, to say the least, as England threw away a one-goal lead in their opening Euro 2016 game with Russia, which ended all square at 1-1.
There were positives to take out of the draw, as the majority of the side gave a performance worth shouting about. However, that wasn’t the case for Raheem Sterling, who endured a torrid time in Marseille.
It came as a shock that Roy Hodgson opted for the Manchester City man over other options, albeit seeming to be the perfect fit for the formation the England boss went with.
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Sterling and Adam Lallana were positioned either side of Harry Kane to provide added support for the number nine, but it’s safe to say, the decision didn’t work.
Yes, the wide-man provided pace down the left flank for England, but that means nothing when he then fails to cause any threat and gives the ball away.
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It was a frustrating performance on his part and he was lucky to last 87 minutes before being replaced by James Milner.
He did well to bomb forward when receiving the ball, but the Russian defence always got the better of him, meaning he failed to do his duty and provide any real support for Kane.
His touches have always let him down and the weekend’s game proved no different, he looked shaky; the occasion definitely got the better of him.
In reality, Sterling shouldn’t have been on the pitch to start with. Hodgson aimed to pose a more attacking threat in his set-up going into the tournament, proven in his decision to select five strikers. If England started with two up top instead of one, the job could have been done and dusted by half-time.
With this in mind, the England coach could have gone for Jamie Vardy alongside Kane with Wayne Rooney, Dele Alli, and Lallana behind to offer support – it definitely would have worked better.
Vardy has been electric in front of goal of late, and it was a surprise Sterling received the nod ahead of him. The way the game was panning out, Vardy was all-but certain to come on, they were crying out for someone to nick the second goal and ensure the three points.
However, Hodgson opted for the safer option of bringing on Milner, attempting to sit back and clinch the 1-0 victory, a decision which proved costly.
Taking an attacking player off for a more defensive one released the attacking pressure England posed and that subsequently lead to an undeserved equaliser deep into stoppage time.
If the England boss selected Sterling for his ability to deliver balls into the box, then the question remains, why was Kane taking corners? It makes more sense to have a smaller player, who can pick out a cross, taking the set piece, than a taller one who can’t.
Sterling’s chances of featuring against Wales remain on rocks after his performance, and he was even subject to doubt from former footballing greats. Ex-England striker Ian Wright told ITV: “If you are going to be looking at somebody today (Saturday) who might be worrying about their position…it didn’t work out for Sterling.”
Jamie Redknapp then joined the action whilst talking to Sky Sports: “One player that might be under pressure is Raheem Sterling” he said. “He didn’t play as well as he would’ve liked.”
If Hodgson wants to get his side home and hosed with a victory over Wales, changes are a must and if he is to drop anyone from Saturday’s opener, it has to be Sterling.
If the winger plays ahead of Vardy on Thursday, England may fall short of goal-mouth action again and could see their flight back to the UK near ever closer.
Was Raheem Sterling the man to blame for England's 1-1 draw with Russia? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!