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Sterling absent with injury as De Bruyne's Belgium down England

Sterling absent with injury as De Bruyne's Belgium down England
Raheem Sterling was ruled out through injury as England’s hopes of reaching the UEFA Nations League finals were ended by a 2-0 defeat away to an impressive Belgium.

Sterling was ruled out of the Group A2 game in Heverlee ahead of kick-off after initially reporting a problem late last week.

However, England manager Gareth Southgate revealed that the issue was not a serious one and added that Sterling was expected to have recovered ‘by the end of the week’.

“Raheem felt something a couple of days ago and didn't train on Friday as a precaution,” Southgate confirmed ahead of the game.

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"He started training yesterday and wasn't really happy with it. We have discussed it and it isn't one to take a chance on.

"I think he will be fine by the end of the week, but the games for us just came too quickly.

"It was a slightly heavy pitch when we trained on Friday and it is a small niggle really.

“He had a good rest at the beginning of the week – it’s a bit of an unfortunate incident but not one that is going to keep him out for long."

WATCH: Skills, thrills and megs! Sterling's verdict

Though Sterling was absent, his Etihad colleague Kyle Walker was in the Three Lions starting line-up with City team-mate Kevin De Bruyne at the heart of the Red Devils’ midfield.

And it was Roberto Martinez’s side who immediately seized control of the game in dramatic fashion, sweeping into a 2-0 lead inside the first 25 minutes.

The hosts were on the front foot after just nine minutes after Eric Dier’s loose pass found Romelu Lukaku who, in turn, picked out Youri Tielemens.

The Leicester midfielder let fly from distance and and his long-range shot deflected off Declan Rice past a despairing England keeper Jordan Pickford, going in off the post.

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Belgium then doubled their advantage on 24 minutes after De Bruyne was adjudged to have been fouled on the edge of the box by Rice.

Napoli’s Dries Mertens curled a stunning free-kick over the wall and past a despairing Pickford.

Though England subsequently enjoyed plenty of possession and created a number of opportunities they lacked a crucial cutting edge and, irrespective of Wednesday’s game against Iceland, tonight’s result means the Three Lions cannot now progress through to next October’s Nations League finals.


                        TAKE THAT: Kevin De Bruyne looks on as Dries Mehrtens doubles Belgium's lead against England with a free-kick
TAKE THAT: Kevin De Bruyne looks on as Dries Mehrtens doubles Belgium's lead against England with a free-kick

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