Raheem Sterling converted a late penalty as England got their Nations League Group A2 campaign off to a winning start with a narrow 1-0 victory against an under-strength Iceland.

Gareth Southgate's men returned to action for the first time since a 4-0 success over Kosovo last November, but took a while to get going before eventually emerging with the points following a dramatic finale.

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Kyle Walker was sent off for a second bookable offence 20 minutes from time, before Sverrir Ingi Ingason also saw red for the hosts for conceding a late spot kick. Sterling spared England's blushes by rolling the kick down the middle, but the Three Lions were given a real let off when Birkir Bjarnason blazed another penalty over just seconds later.

Iceland were missing several key men, including Premier League stars, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Berg Gudmundsson but still came close to stirring echoes of the shock success that saw them dump Roy Hodgson's England out of Euro 2016.

Kyle Walker of England runs with the ball during the UEFA Nations League group stage match between Iceland and England at Laugardalsvollur National Stadium on September 05, 2020 in Reykjavik, Iceland

Image credit: Getty Images

In the absence of VAR, Harry Kane saw an early poacher's goal harshly ruled out for offside. Replays suggested the Spurs forward was in line with the last defender and it wasn't the last time the Three Lions would be frustrated as they failed to create much of note despite dominating.

Southgate handed Manchester City starlet, Phil Foden a debut and the 20-year-old looked at home without truly demonstrating just why he is so highly rated. England also brought on Mason Greenwood for a late bow as they eventually came through a difficult encounter.

England will now turn their attention to another Group A2 encounter in Denmark on Tuesday, while Iceland visit Belgium.

TALKING POINT

England toil, but just about prevail. This was far from the vintage, freescoring England we had seen pre-virus. Yes, many players are in a sort of pre-season but this side should still have had far too much for a weakened Iceland. At one point it looked like it was going to be another night to forget against the minnows, but in the end it came down to keeping your nerve from the spot. England did that - Iceland didn't.

Players react after the UEFA Nations League football match between Iceland v England on September 5, 2020 in Reykjavik.

Image credit: Getty Images

MAN OF THE MATCH

Raheem Sterling (England). Showed good fitness levels throughout and provided the cross for Kane's disallowed goal. Continued to probe patiently before winning and converting the penalty that clinched victory.

England's forward Raheem Sterling controls the ball during the UEFA Nations League football match between Iceland v England on September 5, 2020 in Reykjavik.

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

ICELAND: Halldorsson 7, Hermannsson 8, Ingason 6, Arnason 7, Magnusson 7, Traustason 7, Bjarnason 6, Palsson 7, Thorsteinsson 7, Bodvarsson 7, Gudmundsson 8. Subs: Sigurdsson 6, Hallfredsson 6, Fridjonsson n/a.

ENGLAND: Pickford 6, Walker 4, Gomez 6, Dier 6, Trippier 6, Ward-Prowse 6, Rice 6, Foden 6, Sterling 8, Sancho 5, Kane 6. Subs: Ings 6, Alexander-Arnold 6, Greenwood 7.

Matchcast: Full match stats and commentary

KEY MOMENTS

6' - ENGLAND GOAL DISALLOWED! Kane arrives late to slide home an arcing left-wing cross from Sterling. He looks a bit surprised it's not been given. Offside is the decision and there's no VAR to check. Replays suggest it's a harsh call.

64' - ENGLAND CHANCE! Nearly an own goal. Trippier curls a dangerous left-wing free kick into the area where Bödvarsson rises and flicks just wide of his own far post.

70' - RED CARD! Walker is booked again for a late, late challenge - and that's a red card. England are down to 10-men! That's poor judgement from the Man City man.

Kyle Walker of England reacts during the UEFA Nations League group stage match between Iceland and England at Laugardalsvollur National Stadium on September 05, 2020 in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Image credit: Getty Images

90' - GOAL! Iceland 0-1 England. Sterling rolls his penalty down the middle to surely win the game for England. The spot kick was awarded after Sterling's shot was blocked by the hand of Ingason. He receives a second yellow and the hosts are down to 10 too!

90+2' - ICELAND MISSED PENALTY! What is going on!? Gomez is penalised for pulling back Gudmundsson. Bjarnason steps up, but blazes it over the top!


KEY STATS

Sterling has been directly involved in 17 goals in his last 12 games for England (11 goals, 6 assists).

Walker is the first player to be sent off for the England men's team since Raheem Sterling vs Ecuador in June 2014.

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