Three years on from their heartbreaking extra-time loss at the Luzhniki, the Three Lions exacted some sort of revenge by triumphing in the Group D opener at a pulsating, partially filled Wembley.
Sterling latched onto Kalvin Phillips’ pass to fire past Dominik Livakovic from 12 yards and grab a 57th minute winner as England also won a European Championship opener for the first time.
“It’s great to get off to a win," Sterling told the BBC.
“Now we have the games to look forward to and hopefully go into them and win again.”
Phil Foden struck a post early for the Three Lions and Phillips forced Livakovic into a smart save.
The Leeds midfielder impressed throughout but played down his influence on the international stage.
“I’m just laid back, it’s the kind of person I am, regardless of what is being thrown at me I take it in my path and try to relax as much as possible,” he told the BBC. “If I didn’t have the team and coaching staff around me it wouldn’t be possible.
“It was very enjoyable, it was very warm and took its toll towards the end of the game. I’m very happy with my performance but there are two more group games left.”
Kieran Trippier surprisingly started at left-back as former Sheffield United defender Kyle Walker completed 90 minutes on the right side of a back four. Ex-Blades striker Dominic Calvert Lewin came off the bench late on, while Harry Maguire missed out of the 23-man match day squad along with Jadon Sancho and left wing-back Ben Chilwell.
Southgate said: “It is just unfortunate we can only name 23.
“We have had to cover certain positions. I don’t like the fact we are having to leave the players out of a squad in a major tournament – it is not fair on them.
"With Kieran, we feel a very experienced player, a good one v one defender to stop crosses coming in.
“His communication and leadership will be a help. We have got changes in the backline and I think his experience will help us.”