Monday, September 27, 2021
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England top group after battling win over Belgium

England moved top of their Nations League group after coming from behind to battle past Belgium 2-1 at Wembley with an encouraging second-half performance.

Belgium took the lead after Eric Dier’s misjudged challenge in the box on Romelu Lukaku allowed the former Everton and Manchester United man to slot home a penalty (16), but England levelled against the run of play with their own Marcus Rashford penalty after Thomas Meunier had pulled back Jordan Henderson at a corner (39).

England improved drastically after the break and took the lead as Mason Mount’s effort deflected off Toby Alderweireld and into the top corner (64), and though Yannick Carrasco missed a clear chance to level for Belgium, England too missed fine opportunities to extend their lead through sub Harry Kane and Rashford, both directing big chances wide.

The result means England leapfrog the world’s top-ranked side into top spot in UEFA Nations League Group A2, leading by a single point after three games, as Gareth Southgate’s side prepare to host Denmark on Wednesday at Wembley again.

England top Nations League Group A2
England top Nations League Group A2

How England recovered to Mount comeback

England looked uncomfortable for large parts of the first half, as Belgium showed glimpses of why they are still world No 1. Carrasco saw his low effort from 12 yards ruled out for an offside on Timothy Castagne, who was in the line of vision of Jordan Pickford, but Belgium were soon ahead when Dier mistimed his tackle on Lukaku in the area.

Lukaku, a menace for England in the first half, dusted himself off to slot the penalty past Pickford.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates after giving Belgium the lead from the penalty spot at Wembley
Romelu Lukaku celebrates after giving Belgium the lead from the penalty spot at Wembley

England lacked rhythm and were forced to play in front of Belgium – their first shot on target in the 31st minute was their longest wait in a home game since November 2011 – but they got back on level terms thanks to a silly tug from Meunier on Henderson in the penalty area from one of a flurry of England corners.

A risky move, even without VAR, as German referee Tobias Stieler confidently pointed to the spot, and Rashford placed his spot kick into the top left corner, rounding off a superb week after being awarded an MBE.

Marcus Rashford converts from the penalty spot
Marcus Rashford converts from the penalty spot

Belgium should have gone into half-time ahead as Lukaku’s back-heeled through ball found Carrasco through on goal at a slight angle, but he lashed his effort horribly wide of Pickford’s right-hand post.

England then cut off the supply to Lukaku in the second half, getting more compact in midfield, and started to dictate the play in Belgium’s half before going ahead just after the hour mark.

Found inside the box by Kieran Tripper’s header back, Mount found a yard to shoot right-footed, and was helped by a big deflection off the boot of Alderweireld, sending the ball looping over Simon Mignolet.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin kept his place in the side against Belgium
Dominic Calvert-Lewin kept his place in the side against Belgium

De Bruyne, who had up to that point looked below his average, then sent Carrasco through on goal at the blink of an eye with a superb through ball, but the forward touched wide at the far post after opening his body up.

England weren’t exactly holding on late on and could have extended their lead; first sub Kane glanced wide unmarked from a Trippier corner, before Rashford then lashed inches over after finding space in the box as Belgium kept men forward.

Team news

Gareth Southgate made nine changes following the 3-0 win over Wales; Calvert-Lewin started again with Kane only fit enough for the bench, while Pickford started in goal. Mount came in for Grealish, while Dier played in a five-man defence.

Jan Vertonghen didn’t make the Belgium squad following his broken cheekbone, and Mignolet replaced Courtois in goal in a side full of current and former Premier League players.

Belgium had a sloppy England on the rack in the first half, but Southgate’s side showed their defiant side after the break to claim an impressive and vital three points, their first win over major opposition since beating Croatia in November 2018 in the Nations League.

Opta stats

  • England have won 20 of their last 21 competitive home games (L1), scoring 67 goals while conceding only 10.
  • Belgium have lost for only the fourth time in 47 games under Roberto Martínez (P47 W36 D7), and the for the first time since November 2018 versus Switzerland.
  • England have beaten Belgium in a competitive fixture for just the second time (D2 L2), with the only previous such win coming at the 1990 World Cup.
  • Marcus Rashford became the fourth Man Utd player to score in four consecutive competitive appearances for England, after Bobby Charlton, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney (x2).

What’s next?

England continue their Nations League campaign with another Group A2 game at home to Denmark, live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 7pm on Wednesday, with kick-off at 7.45pm. Belgium, meanwhile, are away to Iceland, with kick-off also at 7.45pm on Wednesday. You can watch that game live on the red button.

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