Southgate happy with U21s' 'deserved' victory over Portugal

Thursday 19 May 2016
Gareth Southgate felt his side deserved their 1-0 win over Portugal

England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate felt his side were deserved winners over Portugal in their Toulon Tournament opener on Thursday.

It took a second-half goal from Lewis Baker to secure three points in Group B, but on reflection of the overall performance and chances created, the head coach wasn’t left in any doubt that it was the right outcome.

And with windy conditions in the south of France, Southgate was pleased with the way his players adapted to the situation.

England 1-0 Portugal

Toulon Tournament
Group B
Thursday 19 May 2016
Stade Leo Lagrange, Toulon
Live on BT Sport

"I thought we were the dominant side today, we passed the ball really well on what is a very difficult pitch and windy conditions, especially in the first half when we were playing against the wind," he said.

"We managed to find some good solutions when we were playing out from the back and we had the best chances in the game so it was definitely a fair scoreline."

The eventual winner came from the boot of Chelsea midfielder Baker, who had been the pick of England’s players in the first half when he also provided a real goal threat.

But Southgate was full of praise for his midfield partners Nat Chalobah, James Ward-Prowse and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who dominated their area of the pitch.

"I thought his [Baker’s] performance was good, as was the whole midfield four," he added. 

"We played with a diamond and I thought that was a real strength of our team today.

"He had two very good chances early on and one very good effort from a corner which we had worked on which is pleasing."

Kasey Palmer and Romario Balde tussle in Toulon

Southgate gave Kasey Palmer his Under-21s debut against Portugal in Toulon on Thursday

Southgate was also happy with the way his players kept their discipline, when the game threatened to get niggly at stages in the first half.

"We’re used to that now, but it was important that we kept our discipline," he admitted.

"This is a tournament where pitches are a bit sticky, which leads to quite a lot of collisions, duels and fouls so there are lots of decisions for referees to make and this is one of the best learning parts of the tournament for our players.

"They’ve got to try and avoid bookings if they can and keeping eleven men on the field is important so we showed experience in doing that."

The squad now have their three day break before the next fixture against Guinea in Six Fours on Monday. 

But with three games in five days coming up, Southgate knows his squad needs to be managed.

"We’ve a bit of time to prepare for the next game but we’ve got to be conscious that the load after that is quite heavy," he said.

"We’re going to give as many people as possible some game time, but also still stay strong and keep some stability in the team."

By Nicholas Veevers in Toulon, France