WOLVERHAMPTON: England manager Gareth Southgate accepted responsibility for the Three Lions’ worst home defeat since 1928 as Hungary stormed to a 4-0 win in Wolverhampton on Tuesday. Southgate’s men are staring at relegation from the top tier of the Nations League after a fourth consecutive game without a win. But he called for fans to stand by his players ahead of the World Cup in five months’ time.
“I totally understand tonight is a chastening experience,” said Southgate who was the target for most of the anger coming from the stands at Molineux. “What I would say is this group of players have been unbelievable for the country and it’s important people stay with them because they are still going to be strong going forward.”
England surpassed all expectations to reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and backed that up by reaching the final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years at Euro 2020 last summer. “It’s no time to panic,” said England captain Harry Kane, who dismissed any suggestion that Southgate should be sacked. “It was a night to forget but we’ve got to take it on the chin. We’ve got to move forward. “We are preparing for a big World Cup and that’s the most important thing.”
Hungary secured their first win over England for 60 years in Budapest 10 days ago and followed that up with their first victory on English soil since a famous 6-3 success at Wembley in 1953. A double from Roland Sallai and late goals from Adam Nagy and Daniel Gazdag kept Marco Rossi’s side on course to reach the Nations League finals next year. Hungary are not headed to the World Cup after they finished a distant fourth behind England in their qualifying group.
But they lead Germany by a point in Nations League Group A3, with European champions Italy a further point behind with two games to go. England are three points adrift at the bottom of the section and need a revival in September away to Italy and home to Germany to avoid relegation. However, of greater concern for Southgate is how he rallies his squad with just two more matches before their World Cup campaign kicks off against Iran on November 21.
Fatigue at the end of a long season that began just weeks after losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy has been blamed for England’s lacklustre form. Southgate has rotated his side heavily over the four matches this month and admitted his decisions have backfired. “The results are my responsibility,” added Southgate. “We picked a young team with energy and when the game started to go against them, it started to look that way.
“That’s my responsibility in the end. I felt at half-time we needed to go for the game. We made changes to have a more attacking impetus, but then we were more open as well.” Southgate has bemoaned a reliance on Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling for goals and Kane’s penalty remains the only goal they have scored in four games this month. However, there are also major defensive issues for Southgate to address before the World Cup. John Stones rounded off a miserable evening when he was harshly sent off for a second yellow card eight minutes from time.
The Manchester City centre-back was also at fault for the opening goal as he turned a free-kick into Sallai’s path, whose shot had too much power for Aaron Ramsdale. Sallai produced another deadly finish to double Hungary’s lead 20 minutes from time when he latched onto Martin Adam’s inch-perfect pass to fire in between Ramsdale’s legs. Nagy drilled home a powerful shot from the edge of the area to put the result beyond any doubt. Stones was then given his marching orders before Gazdag broke clear to rub salt into England’s wounds.
Dutch thrilling victory
Memphis Depay scored an injury-time winner just seconds after Gareth Bale had equalised for Wales as the Netherlands snatched a 3-2 Nations League victory on Tuesday. The win in Rotterdam keeps Louis van Gaal’s men three points clear of Belgium, who won 1-0 against Poland in Warsaw, at the top of Group A4. Noa Lang put the Dutch in front in the 17th minute with his first international goal and Cody Gakpo quickly made it two. Brennan Johnson completed a spell of three goals in eight-and-a-half minutes by pulling one back, before Bale came off the bench and scored a 92nd-minute penalty.
But home substitute Depay had the final say as the Netherlands made it three wins from four matches in the tournament, despite being without several first-choice players from the start. It was a dramatic encounter between two teams who have qualified for the World Cup in Qatar later this year. “It’s hard to take but I’d rather this happen now and we address it than it happen at the World Cup,” Wales captain Bale told S4C. “We have to use these Nations League games to improve and get better.”
Club Brugge forward Lang gave the hosts an early lead with a fine individual strike, turning the Welsh defence and drilling a powerful shot past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. The advantage was doubled midway through the first half as Gakpo scored after his initial effort was blocked. But Wales hit back less than three minutes later, as Dan James won the ball and fed Nottingham Forest forward Johnson to score for the second time in four days. Hennessey saved from Gakpo shortly after half-time, while Johnson was denied by Jasper Cillessen at the other end. – AFP