England handed reality check by Poland despite win as John Stones almost costs Three Lions

England v Poland: Match in pictures

When you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters.Sometimes they’ll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer.Our Privacy Notice explains more about how we use your data, and your rights.You can unsubscribe at any time.

The non-Covid-compliant hug and pat on the back John Stones gave to winning goalscorer Harry Maguire said it all. “Thanks, mate!” Because in that moment of relief as the ball struck the roof of the net, if felt in some way as though the Manchester United captain had saved the City centre-back’s England career.

Perhaps that is overdramatic. England would qualify from this group even if they had dropped two points against a Poland team decimated by the pandemic and missing its one world class player Robert Lewandowski through injury.

But it has to be said, Stones needs to stop making a habit of these horrendous gaffes.

It is two years since his howler against Holland cost England a place in the final of the Nations League.

But in that time he has only been trusted to face Montenegro (7-0), San Marino (5-0), Albania (2-0). The first top 20 side that came England’s way and it was happening again.

Nick Pope’s pass out to him allowed him around 30 yards of space to get his bearings and find an out ball. Still, that was not enough.

Jakub Muder nicked the ball off his toe, played a one-two with Arkadiusz Milik and hammered in the first goal Pope had conceded in over eight hours of international football.

Let’s just hope this is Stones getting one of these career-wrecking blunders out of his system before it really matters in the summer.

Against Poland, in fairness, England should have been out of sight having dominated Poland without managing to find a proper cutting edge.

In the end, they had had to engineer one.

There is no doubt ‘penalty’ was at least somewhere in the mind of Raheem Sterling when he embarked on a dash towards goal from the touchline midway inside the Poland half.

Michal Helik of Barnsley caught him just as it looked as though Sterling had overrun the ball and these days being gifted the foul you were looking for is not considered cheating.

And with Harry Kane on spot-kicking duties, the conversion was just as inevitable as the penalty award.

The Tottenham man waited for former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojcieck Szczesny to dive then planted the ball right where his nose had been moments before for a record 10th England penalty success.

Mason Mount worked well with Chelsea team-mate Ben Chilwell with England enjoying most of their success down the left, and Sterling continued to pose a more individual menace.

Phil Foden, as ever, always looked dangerous on the ball but, in the reckoning, nobody was proving quite dangerous enough.

England were coasting and in the second half, they began to wander off course.

Their passing became so lacking in any sort of direction “Give and go” began to look more like Ever Given. No wonder they ran aground.

Thankfully, concentration may wander sporadically, but determination and a will to win are more permanent traits.

Certainly Stones strained every sinew in his body to the limit to keep the deep corner in play five minutes from time and nod it back into the danger area.

Maguire met it on the half-volley to drill the ball into the roof of the net and England could march on to the Euro 2020 finals with the nine World Cup qualifying points they wanted after all.

And perhaps a well-timed reality check for us all ahead of the next England game at Wembley – Croatia in the Group D opener on June 13.

But after Stones’ gaffe England’s stately progression through this international triple header turned into a test of character for the final half and hour.

Harry Maguire supports John Stones after Poland error

By Neil Squires

Harry Maguire backed John Stones to put his latest England blunder behind him after riding to his central defensive partner’s rescue at Wembley last night.

Maguire lashed home an 85th minute winner against Poland to maintain England’s 100 per cent record in the World Cup qualifiers after a Stones blunder had allowed the visitors back into the game.

Stones was caught in possession by Jakub Moder and punished by the Brighton man with the 58th minute equaliser but made partial amends by heading the ball into Maguire’s path for his central defensive partner to deliver a 2-1 win.

“Mistakes can happen and when they happen when you play for England they get scrutinised more than ever,” said Maguire.

“It was a great reaction from John. He had a big part to play in the winning goal with the assist and for me to score the winning goal was a great feeling.

“But more importantly it’s a big three points for us and puts us in a great position in the group.

“John has been brilliant this year. We don’t like making mistakes but sometimes we are at fault for goals. We are not perfect. He is in great form and he will come back strong.”

England manager Gareth Southgate must now decide whether to stick with Stones for the Euros.

“He’s managed to compose himself for the rest of the game and had a part in the winning goal. That was important. You can fold in those moments but he didn’t,” said Southgate.

“He’s been having a really good season. He’s made a mistake tonight, he knows that, but he’s bounced back tonight and he knows he needs to do that.”

Source: Read Full Article