Gareth Southgate praised England for keeping their composure after allowing Poland back into the game – with John Stones’ performance telling a similar story.
England earned a 2-1 win at Wembley to maintain their perfect start to World Cup qualifying. However, they looked on course to be dropping points after an error from Stones allowed Poland to level things up at 1-1. He made amends though by assisting Harry Maguire for a late winner after a corner.
The win kept up England’s positive start to their qualification campaign. But it was the most complicated task they have faced over the past few days.
It took until the last five minutes of normal time for Southgate’s side to rescue the win. Their persistence paid off in the end, though.
The Three Lions can end the international break on a high note after the victory. Southgate will have some thinking to do in the weeks ahead as players return to their clubs. But his instant reaction was positive after the response shown on the pitch.
He told ITV Sport: “I thought we were very good in the first half and in control of the game, and then to concede a goal like we did can hit the team.
“But they stuck at it; they recovered their composure and got an important set-play winner.”
Stones typified that redemption arc more than anyone else. It was his error that gifted Poland a way back into the game, leading to Jakub Moder’s goal.
But as England pushed to regain the lead, the Manchester City defender headed the ball down for centre-back partner Maguire to smash home.
Southgate was impressed with his reaction and wants to see more of the same.
The England boss said of his centre-back: “He managed to compose himself for the rest of the game and had a part in the winning goal which is important. You can fold in those moments and he didn’t.
“He’s been having a really good season. He’s made a mistake tonight and he knows that, but he bounced back from it during the game and he’s got to keep doing that.”
Southgate coy on squad selection
Stones will now be hoping for a strong end to the season with Man City in hope of keeping his place in the starting lineup for England’s Euro 2020 campaign in the summer.
Southgate will be weighing up his options carefully in the meantime. Indeed, the manager said there is still “a lot to play for” before he can make his selections.
Having seen a good performance even without a couple of missing players, though, he could reflect on a job reasonably well done.
He said of his squad selection: “Everybody’s got a lot to play for for that.
“We played a very good Polish side and we’ve done a lot of good things this week but we can see there’s still a step to go.
“What I really liked is we had a lot of players missing that we might have been able to refresh the team with a little bit more across the last two matches and in the end that slight fatigue started to tell I think. But the players stuck at it and deserved the win.”
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