16 November 2020 08:44
Gareth Southgate's disappointment at Belgium ending England's Nations League hopes was tempered by Jack Grealish's "outstanding" performance in a positive all-round display. Youri Tielemans' deflected strike and a fine Dries Mertens free-kick saw Belgium run out 2-0 winners at Den Dreef, where Roberto Martinez's men had to dig deep as England applied constant pressure in the second half. But the visitors lacked the required cutting edge to secure a victory from a game that Southgate felt his side performed better in than last month's 2-1 win against the same opposition at Wembley. Jack Grealish impressed Gareth Southgate (Francisco Seco/AP) "I think two moments in the game – a deflection for the first goal and the second goal I don't think is a free-kick – were the turning points. "But also some other experienced players who played very well, so I take a lot of positives from it, although of course we don't want to lose football matches." Sunday's defeat means that qualification from Group A2 is beyond England heading into Wednesday's Wembley encounter with relegated Iceland.
Jamie Redknapp has compared Jack Grealish to Paul Gascoigne after his fantastic performance for England against Belgium. Grealish has had to work hard to earn a chance with the national team wit Gareth Southgate instead opting for Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Mason Mount in wide areas despite Grealish's form for Villa. I think he took the ball in tight areas, his technique was good, he took players out of the game," he told Sky Sports. "It's been a long time since you're watching England and you're going, 'Please get the ball to him'," Redknapp told Sky Sports. "Tonight, watching Jack Grealish, if he gets the ball, something is going to happen.
How England's Nations League challenge ended in Belgium... England, wearing black armbands in memory of their former goalkeeper Ray Clemence, knew a victory would realistically be needed to maintain their hopes of making the Nations League Final Four next October, and Kane fired a low effort wide in the opening minutes. But it was Belgium who took the lead when Eric Dier carelessly sent a pass to Jan Vertonghen and then couldn't prevent Romelu Lukaku laying off for Tielemans to shoot in off the post after clipping a couple of England defenders. Jack Grealish almost came up with an instant response, with Toby Alderweireld across well to block his close-range clip, and from the resulting corner Lukaku impressively cleared Kane's header off the line. Team news Gareth Southgate included both Mason Mount and Jack Grealish, with Tyrone Mings starting as part of a back three with Harry Maguire suspended.
Alderweireld then got in the way of another Grealish strike on 15 minutes but England's positive response was soon quietened. Mertens whipped an impressive free-kick over an England wall which failed to jump in unison, after Rice was judged to have fouled Kevin De Bruyne, despite replays showing the West Ham midfielder beat his opponent to the ball. Mason Mount shot over from a Grealish cutback six-yards out and then headed wide from a corner after Kane's shot was blocked by 'keeper Thibaut Courtois as England pushed to get back into the game, and that intent was maintained after the break, with Mount and Grealish off target soon after the restart. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jadon Sancho were thrown on in a double change with 20 minutes to play as Southgate tried to find a way through but while Kane flashed a shot wide, Lukaku almost made it 3-0 to the hosts when he forced Jordan Pickford into a sharp stop. The Belgian then turned Dier inside out before firing wide from another counter-attack in the final moments, as England head back to Wembley still wondering over which personnel or system will get themselves up to the level required next summer. 5:51 Gareth Southgate praised the performance of Jack Grealish in England's Nations League defeat to Belgium. England boss Gareth Southgate: "We don't want to lose football matches, we don't like losing football matches, but I've got to give enormous credit to the team. "Two moments in the game - of course at the end they were going to have some counter-attack opportunities but we recovered well on those, one good save from Jordan - but I thought we were excellent. England's final Nations League group game is at home to Iceland on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm; kick-off 7.45pm. Belgium finish at home to Denmark on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Football Red Button; kick-off 7.45pm. RELATED| Nations League: Belgium eases to comfortable 2-0 win over England "I'm happy in Manchester, I'm at a good club (with) good owners," De Bruyne told VTM Nieuws before Belgium beat England 2-0 in Sunday's Nations League encounter.