England taught a lesson by Belgium as Southgate pays the price for selection
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Gareth Southgate got this all wrong and England paid the price as Belgium taught them a lesson in Leuven.
Southgate, missing key players like Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Harry Maguire, named another defensive-looking line-up.
But his struggling side found themselves two down at half time after goals from Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens.
You don’t expect the number one team in the world to collapse from there in a match as big as this.
And Belgium looked comfortable as England struggled to respond when Southgate emptied his bench in the second half.
The Three Lions boss is a man under pressure and he has questions to answer after this, because his team look a shadow of the side that went so far at the World Cup.
When England came from behind to beat the Belgians 2-1 at Wembley last month, Southgate warned them they would have to “suffer” to win games like these.
And the Three Lions were certainly suffering early on as the home side made a flying start and took the lead just nine minutes in.
Eric Dier, who survived an injury scare in the warm-up, played a poor, risky ball out to Mason Mount which was picked off by Jan Vertonghen and played to Mertens.
He fed Lukaku, who in turn found Tielemans, and his shot took a wicked deflection off Tyrone Mings which was enough to beat Jordan Pickford and go in off the post.
England responded strongly with Toby Alderweireld blocking a flicked near-post effort from Jack Grealish after a pinpoint cross from Kieran Trippier.
From the resulting corner, Harry Kane had a header cleared off the line by Lukaku. But things then got a whole lot worse for England.
De Bruyne won a free kick for a foul by Rice in a dangerous position on the edge of the box.
From it, Mertens pinged a curling, dipping free kick over the wall and past Pickford’s despairing dive.
But England were unhappy with the call as Rice appeared to get a touch in the ball first, with De Bruyne kicking him in the leg as he tried to shoot.
It was the first time the Three Lions had trailed by two goals at half time of any match since August 2009, leaving them with a mountain to climb.
Southgate sent on a succession of subs during the second half and England slowly pinned the Belgians back into their own half.
But for all their huffing and puffing, they did not test Thibaut Courtois in the home goal enough.
And while Belgium looked a tired side as the game wore on, they still looked dangerous on the counter.
Pickford made a great save from Lukaku when he was going the wrong way, denying the Inter Milan striker from close range.
England kept plugging away looking for a route back into the game, with Grealish sparkling and Kane always driving his team on.
- England Football Team
- Gareth Southgate
- Harry Kane
- Premier League
- Harry Maguire
- Marcus Rashford
- Raheem Sterling
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