Southgate’s last gasp rescue

England v Belgium (2-2) | Bellingham Rescues England At The Death | Match Highlights

will have given him more headaches.

In a far better performance than against Brazil – which given that performance wasn’t a hard thing to manage – Southgate was within seconds of becoming the first England manager to lose at home to Belgium as again he failed to beat a top 10 side.

Somehow the teams playing in these last two friendlies occupy three of the top 5 spots in the FIFA rankings. An England and Brazil that looked clueless in the previous game and a Belgium side seemingly bereft of much thought in this one.

It’s funny though… for all the talk of the good football, the excitement of this latest game. Two out of the four goals basically came from good old fashioned humps up the park. And three from complete howlers defensively.

As said England played a hell of a lot better here than they did at the weekend. They started off with a great chance less than 30 seconds in as Bowen kept wide, went down the wing and put a cross in that Toney couldn’t get his foot around. Perfect from Bowen but of course I was correct when I said he won’t do it again.

Not long after you had to laugh as the third part of Southgate’s defensive favourites went down with an injury. He lost Walker in that last game, Maguire after the last game and now Stones was down less than 10 minutes in. That bald patch will be increasing.

Belgium seemed to be playing a sit back and wait game. With even Lukaku coming back into his own half. Waiting, waiting for an England howler, knowing it’s more than likely gonna come and sure enough it did. Though from an actual Belgian attack. Belgian attacks which for the most part followed the same pattern of Doku having the beating of his man but instead cutting inside and loosing the ball. England got away with it when the ball rebounded out wide on the left of the box, where Foden played it back and Pickford controlled it, then lined up and took aim before firing his clearance straight to a player in light blue who passed it forward to Villa’s Tielemans who took an early shot from outside the box as Pickford compounded his error by running right across the goal to the far post as it went in the near post.

Why is Pickford playing? Southgate has only three games – including this one – before he has to name his squad, Pickford has been the keeper for most of Southgate’s games in charge has 60 caps, what more does Southgate need to see and why not give someone else a look?

Didn’t take long for England to get back level. It looked like the new kid was going on another nothing sideways/backwards meander when Mainoo all of a sudden jinked to go forward, a ball to Bellingham and for once St. Jude instead of going for personal glory played a ball through to Toney. 84 year old Jan Vertonghen argued he got the ball but it didn’t look like it and VAR agreed as he got a lot of the Brentford striker, who got up, took the ball and after a bit of a wait and with a far too short run up, scored his first international goal.

Belgian went it at the break 2-1 up. Their manager obviously had watched Roma versus Brighton in Europe a couple of weeks ago…

It was almost a an exact replay, except this time Dunk fell over in trying to play the ball, while Lukaku instead of scoring himself put a glorious cross onto Tielemans’s head for only his seventh international goal. Three of them against England.

That could have been a equaliser but Bowen’s header from a corner was chalked off for being offside.

England had played well. Actually moved and passed forward. Though the fullbacks weren’t helping out. Chilwell seemed permanently facing his own goal, while on the other side Gomez barely got forward. Of course after Southgate’s half time talk they dropped off. But then Gomez on the right and Chilwell actually moved forward as well. Chances were created but not finished off. Again too much of it was compressed into a crowded central area, with very little coming from wide, where they could get behind that packed defence.

And there was still that element of greed from the likes of Foden and Bellingham who were looking to score rather than pass it off to someone better positioned.

Of course it took Southgate until just 15 minutes left before he made a change, that wasn’t forced on him. Of course he took off Mainoo who was playing well and finally Maddison got a look in. He doesn’t want Maddison in the squad, he didn’t like being forced to pick him last year, when the Spurs player was playing at his best. So giving him just 15 minutes over two games doesn’t give him time to impress and herein Southgate is helped by his media mates.

While Maddison was playing some balls that creative wise hadn’t been seen previously, Southgate’s media mates were just ignoring them – especially when they set up a chance on goal – or saying that Mainoo or Bowen should be picked ahead of him, no matter that they are completely different players playing in different roles and a different game.

Of course for all of England’s decent play they weren’t finishing anything off while Belgium repeatedly caught them on the break and missed sitters to finish it off.

Southgate’s next change was oh so predictable and by the numbers. When I saw Gordon and Watkins about to come on, I said straight away it would be Toney and Bowen making way. Why? Why not try something different? You’re a goal down, imagine this is an important game in the Euros why not try Toney and Watkins up front together? But that’s beyond the comprehension of Southgate. Toney played well. Looked stronger and more involved than Watkins but that could have just been the Villa’s players bad luck in which game he started.

Watkins did play his part in the last second equaliser. Another hump up the park and he stopped the ball going for a goal kick from Maddison’s header, where Maddison picked it up and put a glorious flick through to Bellingham for him to have the media creaming themselves. Of course through all of this Maddison’s part was completely forgotten.

Southgate got lucky or it would have been two losses in a row in front of a home crowd, with nowhere to hide and the questions mounting. The performance might have been better but it would have been hard for it to have been worse, while Belgium could very easily have won the game with very little or no effort to actually get out of their own half for the vast majority of the game.

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