Gareth Southgate has backed Raheem Sterling to bounce back from a testing week when England host Slovakia in their latest World Cup Qualifier on Monday night.
Sterling scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Manchester City defeated Bournemouth 2-1 in the Premier League last weekend, only to be sent off after he was deemed to have celebrated excessively. He must now serve a one-match domestic ban.
Speculation was also linking the 22-year-old with a Deadline Day transfer to Arsenal, with City reportedly willing to use him as a makeweight in a deal for Alexis Sanchez.
Sterling was reportedly open to a move back to London but it never came to fruition, and less than 24 hours after the deadline passed, he started for England in Malta.
The winger, like his international team-mates, struggled to break down a resilient Maltese side and he was taken off at half-time, before the visitors improved after the break to eventually run out 4-0 winners.
“Look, he’s a lad we love,” Southgate said of Sterling. “Of course it’s difficult [to be taken off] but he took it really professionally.
“He is a player we have a lot of time for. He’s really ballsy. As a creative player, some days everything you do works and some days it [doesn’t].
“It is much harder to be a creative player than the lump that I was, because I was just stopping people and that’s much easier.
“To go and beat people, and to beat people in tight spaces, some days that happens and some days, it doesn’t.
“In the first half, it was the latter for Raheem but he will bounce back from that.”