England claimed top spot in their UEFA Nations League group by coming from behind to beat Belgium 2-1 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening.
Romelu Lukaku actually gave the visitors a great start to the match as he won and converted a penalty in the 16th minute. Despite struggling to get forwards throughout the majority of the clash, the Three Lions managed to respond with a penalty of their own. Jordan Henderson was taken down by Thomas Meunier, with Marcus Rashford then making his week even better with a successful spot-kick. England’s renewed optimism then brought rewards as Mason Mount’s deflected effort nestled into the corner of Simon Mignolet’s net.
Here are three things we learned as the Three Lions managed to overcome the No.1 rated international side in the world:
Lukaku bullies England backline
Considering his prolificacy in front of goal throughout his time in the Premier League and currently with Inter Milan, it was no surprise to see Romelu Lukaku use his experience to great effect. The former Everton and Manchester United man bullied his former Premier League foes such as Eric Dier and Harry Maguire throughout the evening, using his great strength and pace to his advantage.
He was able to hold off any challenges from the England backline and played a key role in the opener; sprinting away from Dier, eventually being hauled down in the box, after which he netted the resultant spot-kick. He was slightly quieter in the second period but overall his performance may give Manchester United supporters a sense of what might of been at Old Trafford.
Lack of creativity but still on the winning trail
Coming up against the highest ranking national side in the world in the form of Belgium, the Three Lions were always going to find it more difficult to create chances than in their relatively straight-forward victory in the week against Wales. However, their lack of creativity in open play was poor, somewhat the result of a midfield pairing of Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice who in their defence, who in fairness have never claimed to be the most forward thinking players in the game.
Consequently, there was a real lack of any real chances in open play for the hosts.
That mattered not though considering that they still managed to secure a win which on paper is an impressive one. Whilst Gareth Southgate will surely want his side to be more threatening in future matches, they are now in the meantime top of their UEFA Nations League group and are now at 6/4 with Unibet to win it and qualify for the tournament finals.
Wasteful Belgium sees Three Lions claim three points
Whilst Southgate will be thrilled with the victory, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez will be supremely frustrated. The visitors actually went ahead and might have even got an even greater advantage, with Yannick Ferreira Carrasco going close on a few occasions. Smart play down both flanks saw Belgium carve open their opponents on numerous occasions but once they were in front of goal, the chances were spurned.
Following Kevin De Bruyne’s withdrawal midway through the second period, the Belgians’ chances became few and far between. Whether that is a lack of creativity throughout the rest of the team from the visitors’ perspective or in fact a direct consequence of renewed defensive concentration from England remains to be seen.
England: Pickford (6), Walker (7), Dier (5), Maguire (6); Trippier (6), Rice (7), Henderson (6) (Phillips (6), 66′), Mount (7) (Sancho (N/A), 89′), Alexander-Arnold (6) (James (N/A), 79′); Rashford (7), Calvert-Lewin (6) (Kane (6), 66′).
Belgium: Mignolet (6), Denayer (6), Boyata (6), Alderweireld (6); Castagne (7), Tielemans (6), Witsel (7), Meunier (5); Carrasco (7) (Doku (N/A), 83′), De Bruyne (7) (Verschaeren (5), 73′), Lukaku (7).
Goals: Lukaku (PEN 16′), Rashford (PEN 39′), Mount (64′)
Referee: Tobias Stieler
Yellow Cards: Rice (32′), Meunier (38′)
Red Cards: N/A
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