For the young City midfielder, making his Three Lions bow was a major career milestone that he will never forget – though, in truth, the contest only really burst into life late on.
After looking like ending in stalemate, there was drama aplenty in the last few minutes with Sterling converting from the spot after Iceland were penalised for handball.
Incredibly, the hosts then squandered a spot kick at the other end after a foul by Joe Gomez as England sealed the three points.
As well as Sterling, Stockport-born midfielder Foden, who has been at the Club since the age of nine and who helped England lift the U17 World Cup in 2017, was also joined by City teammates Kyle Walker in Gareth Southgate’s starting eleven.
It was, however, a night of frustration for Walker, who was sent off 20 minutes from time after receiving a second yellow card – a decision which rules the full-back out of next Tuesday’s trip to Denmark.
Beforehand, the England manager had described Foden as a ‘beautiful player to watch’ and insisted he was more than ready for the step-up to the senior international scene.
And the 20-year-old, who ended last season as a regular in Pep Guardiola’s side, playing in 12 of our final 14 matches, registering eight goals and nine assists, produced a confident display on his Three Lions bow.
Though harried and pressed at every opportunity by the hosts, Foden was assured in possession with his vision and creativity also evident.
Foden eventually made way for Danny Ings midway through the second half, it was nevertheless a performance that augured well with the City youngster tipped to go on and become a key figure in England’s long-term future.
It was England’s first fixture in 10 months with international action having been suspended for the first half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And that lack of match practice was evident at times with England dominating possession but frustrated by the hosts’ resolute approach.
Seeking revenge in what was the first meeting between the nations since Iceland’s shock 2-1 win at Euro 2016, England had an early effort through skipper Harry Kane disallowed for offside, with VAR not in operation for the game.
Right back Walker rifled an effort into the side netting before West Ham’s Declan Rice then spurned a fine opportunity, missing the ball altogether just six yards out from goal.
After that, it became a game of patience for England with Iceland, marshalled by a disciplined and well-drilled defence, content to press and harry and seek to exploit any set-pieces.
England’s task was then made harder by the loss of Walker for a second yellow card after the City man had mis-timed a challenge.
Just when it looked like ending goalless, there were two late dramatic twists.
First, Sterling converted from the spot after Iceland's Sverrir Ingason was adjudged to have handballed - a decision which saw him pick up a second yellow card.
The City man made no mistake from the spot - only for Iceland to then be awarded a penalty themselves after a Gomez infringement.
However, the hosts' Birkir Bjarnason sent his spot-kick blazing over the bar to ensure England claimed the spoils.