Sterling effort - local lad proves his worth at Wembley

·2 min read
Euro 2020 - Group D - England v Croatia

By Christian Radnedge

LONDON (Reuters) - If there was one England player who felt they had something to prove at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, it was Raheem Sterling who had faced questions about his selection after an underwhelming season for club side Manchester City.

He answered them in style by scoring his first goal at a major tournament for his country, on his 13th appearance for England at a finals, to give them a 1-0 win over Croatia in Euro 2020's Group D.

He celebrated his second-half strike emphatically as it had the double gloss on it of taking place in familiar surroundings for the 26-year-old.

"It's a great feeling for me playing at Wembley, not far from where I grew up and seeing the stadium get built. I thought we played brilliantly at times, (it's) a great start," he told a news conference.

"I don't know if there's pressure in front of your home crowd. It's an extra boost, exciting to be in front of home fans. We've got to live with it and try and use it to our advantage."

After the game, Sterling posted a picture of himself as a boy in a youth-team kit on Twitter with the caption: "Never forget where it started #BoyfromBrent".

Sterling featured at three previous tournaments for England -- two World Cups (2014, 2018) and the 2016 European Championship -- but had never found the back of the net.

His goal tally of 14 across all competitions in the most recent season for City was his worst return since the 2016-17 campaign and he found himself in and out of the side that went on to win the Premier League title.

He was given the chance to shine in the Champions League final last month when manager Pep Guardiola named him in the starting line-up. However, he and his team mates failed to produce anything magical as City lost 1-0 to Chelsea.

England's array of attacking talent, with Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho all vying for the supportive roles behind main striker Harry Kane, meant Sterling's selection was not certain.

However, when his chance came via an excellent through ball from Kalvin Phillips in the 57th minute at a sun-drenched Wembley, the local lad came good.

"It's great to break that duck, I hadn't scored in a major tournament before," he said. "I'm a person that's hungry for goals but I know the value of a team; we dug deep as a team and kept that clean sheet in the end.

"I haven't tried to listen to any noise outside, just focus on myself and the team," he added.

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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