Spain boss Luis Enrique didn't 'kill' team at break despite 'awful' first half

SEVILLE, Spain -- Luis Enrique remained upbeat after his first loss as Spain coach, despite admitting he could have killed his players for their "awful" first-half performance in Monday's 3-2 UEFA Nations League defeat to England.

Raheem Sterling scored twice and Marcus Rashford was also on target as England stormed into a three-goal lead by the break en route to their first competitive win in 31 years against Spain on Spanish soil.

Paco Alcacer and Sergio Ramos pulled goals back for the hosts in the second period but the damage had been done in the first 38 minutes.

"Every coach has their own method," Luis Enrique said in a postgame news conference when asked what he said to his players at the interval. "The normal thing would have been to kill them, but I was wonderful with them. I encouraged them, I didn't change anything."

Luis Enrique, who was appointed as Spain coach in the summer following their disappointing performance at the World Cup, had overseen three wins in his first three matches in charge.

However, he preferred to take the positives from the loss to England, La Roja's first competitive defeat at home in 15 years, and backed his team to become stronger for the experience.

"I told [the players] that great national teams are made by suffering," he added. "We pushed them back after [half-time]. It's a shame we didn't get the second goal earlier because I'm sure the supporters would have scored the third.

"But it was not our best night, that's clear. The first half was awful, we have to recognise that. It was a good second half, though. The ball circulation improved, we pressed better, pushed them back into their area. We had chances to come back."

Luis Enrique said he was still upbeat about his side's prospects despite the surprise defeat by England.

"A group with two World Cup semi-finalists is not easy and we still depend on ourselves, now we have to go to Croatia and win," he added.

"Now I have a long time to go and think. I like a lot of players in this squad a lot. Now it's time to prepare the artillery."

Spain midfielder Dani Ceballos described his team's first-half performance as "disastrous" and believed England were fortunate not to have Jordan Pickford sent off.

Pickford got his feet in a tangle at 3-1 and appeared to pull back Rodrigo in the penalty area but a corner was given instead of a penalty.

"We saw it very clearly," Ceballos said. "It was a red card and a penalty but at times referees get it right and others they make mistakes."

Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso was also disappointed with the result.

"We had a good reaction in the second half but the referee has not helped," he said.

"The three opportunities England had, they finished them and it was too late for us. "We have to learn from the mistakes we made in the first half and think about the good second half we had looking ahead to our next game against Croatia."

Information from ESPN FC's Adriana Garcia was used in this report.