England's second-half display and discipline against Belgium was "bang on", says boss

Sunday 11 Oct 2020
England boss Gareth Southgate was left impressed by aspects of his team's performance against Belgium

England manager Gareth Southgate was left pleased by his side’s response in their 2-1 win against Belgium, in what he had previously billed as a big test for the Three Lions.

In the early stages of the game, Southgate’s side found themselves struggling with their opponents, ranked number one in the world, and behind to a Romelu Lukaku penalty at Wembley.

But they found a way back and equalised through Marcus Rashford’s own spot-kick before taking the lead in the second half through Mason Mount's strike.

And it was how his team managed the game after the break which ensured Southgate left Wembley a happier boss as the Three Lions took over top spot from Roberto Martinez's men in UEFA Nations League Group A.

"They're [Belgium] a top side and we knew some of the questions they would ask us down the side of our defensive block,” he said.

Marcus Rashford scored England's equaliser from the spot

"But to answer those questions is more difficult, in terms of their runs and overloading us in wide areas, which leaves our players with so much decision making.

"They caused us problems with that, and we didn't retain the ball well enough and were slow to move the ball up the pitch and we didn't ask enough questions of them.

"But it was a top level game and we had a lot of young players out there - Trent, Rice and Mount - for who it was a really great experience.

"You don't come into these games and play their level of team without having to deal with those problems and see that spell through.

"But what pleased me was that we had the resilience to see that spell through and then get those opportunities and the game started to open up.

"The penalty gave us a good foothold in the game and then in the second half, off the ball, you've got to be perfect against these teams.

“And we were so compact and our covering positions were so good - Trippier was like a soldier out there, it was an unbelievable defensive performance from him.

"But right throughout the team in that second half, you have to suffer to win these big games and they did that.”

Southgate has always spoken of wanting to see his players in action against the top international teams, and he certainly got that on this occasion.

With the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Lukaku on the pitch, the concentration levels and tactical understanding had to be there, which is where Southgate and his coaching team come into their own too.

"You try to help the players understand the problems that the opposition movement is causing and that was pretty clear to us, but the players have to solve it and they did,” he added

"The work of the front players to press, Rashford and Mount, was phenomenal.

“You can't just play with the ball, we can be a free-flowing attacking team as we know, but against the best, how you defend as a team has got to be bang on and in the second half we got that right.

"The players can take heart from that performance. We know we've got loads we can get better at and we won't be carried away by this win as we've got to back it up against Denmark now.

"But we know the quality of the opponent today is the level we've got to be at on a consistent basis."

Southgate and his squad will now turn their attentions to Wednesday’s match, when Denmark are the visitors to Wembley in our next UEFA Nations League game.

By Nicholas Veevers