John Stones retained the backing of England manager Gareth Southgate after his error started England’s downfall as they slipped to Nations League semi-final defeat against the Netherlands.
Fan disorder made way for a gripping clash at the sold-out Estadio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes, where far fewer supporters are likely to be in attendance for Sunday’s third-place play-off against Switzerland.
England had been hoping to face Portugal in the finale and looked on course for a shot at their first trophy in 53 years as Southgate’s side reacted well to Matthijs De Ligt cancelling out Marcus Rashford’s first-half penalty.
Jesse Lingard thought he had filled the role of super-sub as he coolly turned home in the 83rd minute but joy quickly turned to despair as the Video Assistant Referee ruled out the strike for a narrow offside.
Matters would get even worse in extra-time as a shocking mistake by Stones led Kyle Walker to turn into his own net, with England then conceding a third as a Ross Barkley error allowed Quincy Promes to seal Holland a 3-1 win.
But Stones’ error was the decisive moment and former Three Lions defender Southgate refused to criticise the Manchester City defender.
“I think we’ve had some players who, at the end of the season, have found it difficult in terms of amount of minutes on the pitch – and others having the complete opposite,” Southgate said.
“I think fatigue has played a part tonight, a lack of match sharpness. I’m asking them to play in a way that puts them under huge pressure at the back.
“If we didn’t play that way, we wouldn’t have got to the semi-finals we’ve got to, and we would never progress to being a top team because you saw the way Holland played that way as well.
“They also made a really poor error at the back. But I have got to be there to support John because he’s going to get criticism after tonight.
“But himself and Harry (Maguire), the way we ask them to play, they take huge strain of the game on their shoulders and they’re incredibly courageous to do that.
“So, that’s the way I believe they can play and we should play, and we didn’t lose because of how we wanted to play. The errors were uncharacteristic, really, and not errors that we would make.
“I’ve got to not overreact to those things and I have got to be there to support them in what is a difficult moment for everybody.”
Didn't go our way last night but so many positives to take from our Nations League campaign. We'll look to finish it off well on Sunday. 🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/52ZwArD1ku— Harry Kane (@HKane) 7 June 2019
Southgate also explained the reasoning behind his decision to leave all seven players involved in Saturday’s Champions League final on the bench.
Liverpool trio Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold were joined in the dugout by Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Danny Rose of Tottenham.
“In terms of the individual players, they weren’t ready to start the game,” he said.
“We wanted some young players to have the experience of a night like tonight, and they deserve that experience because they’ve been playing well.
“You can look in hindsight at some of those decisions, but we started and finished with the right people on the pitch.”
Jordan Henderson admits it was tough to prepare for England’s Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands after lifting the Champions League trophy five days earlier.
Defensive errors were the main reason behind a 3-1 extra-time defeat to the Dutch in Guimaraes as Gareth Southgate’s side lost a semi-final for the second successive summer.
There were shades of the loss to Croatia in the last four at the 2018 World Cup as England took the lead before being overrun and eventually slipping to defeat.
Henderson came off the bench as Southgate opted against picking any of the seven players who contested the Champions League final on Saturday.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Danny Rose as well as Henderson’s Liverpool team-mates Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold were named as substitutes.
Henderson told UEFA.com: “It was tough. It was a quick turnaround after the weekend – physically, mentally, emotionally I was drained after the game and it took a few days to get ready for this game.
“But also at the same time the lads have been training a good few weeks to build up to this game as well and they deserved to play. We have a great squad as well and you’ve got to use that.”
Marcus Rashford opened the scoring with a penalty before Matthijs De Ligt made up for tripping the Manchester United forward in the box by heading in the equaliser.
Jesse Lingard thought he had scored a late winner only to see his strike ruled out by the video assistant referee for the narrowest offside decision.
In extra-time both John Stones and Ross Barkley made mistakes which led to goals – firstly a Kyle Walker own goal and then a tap-in for Quincy Promes.
There is a chance to atone for back-to-back semi-final defeats next year with the European Championships – especially with the bulk of England’s matches to be played at Wembley – and Henderson has called on the team to learn from their latest setback.
“It was two poor goals really from our side,” added the Liverpool skipper.
“Obviously we were unlucky for the offside decision, we thought that was a great time to score and we were on top at that moment.
“The last 10-15 minutes I felt we were in control and could win the game and then extra-time we conceded two poor goals from our point of view.
“It’s difficult to lose but you need to learn from the experience as best as you can and keep going. I’m sure we can keep improving and hopefully there are still many big games to come from this team.
“We just have to keep going, keep the experiences we’ve had together, good and bad, and keep working towards the goal.”
England face Switzerland in the Nations League third-place play-off on Sunday afternoon and it remains to be seen whether Southgate will make wholesale changes to the team, including possible starts for Henderson or anyone else who featured in Madrid last weekend.
England lost 3-1 to Holland in the Nations League semi-final and will now face Switzerland in the third-place play-off on Sunday.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the talking points from the defeat in Portugal.
Sterling the skipper
The Manchester City forward took the captaincy in his stride on his 50th appearance for the Three Lions. While he was not at his scintillating best it would have been a useful exercise for Gareth Southgate, knowing he can give Sterling the armband in the future. He was not overawed and being skipper is a sign of his growing maturing over the last two years.
England’s defence still needs to improve
Twelve months ago it was John Stones who switched off to allow Mario Mandzukic to knock England out of the World Cup and there are still lapses at crucial times. In Portugal he gifted Holland a second in extra-time having allowed Matthijs De Ligt to exploit some familiar frailties as he beat him and Kyle Walker to level in Guimaraes. Stones and Ross Barkley then combined to give the ball away for Holland’s third with Harry Maguire also having nervy moments.
Alli should be worried
After an underwhelming season at Tottenham, Dele Alli should fear for his England place. While he may not have started having played in Saturday’s Champions League final defeat, Alli is not guaranteed a spot. Despite the third goal, the combative Barkley showed he can take Alli’s spot and his range of passing – including a sumptuous pass for Jesse Lingard’s disallowed goal – also impressed.
Delph proves the exception to the rule
Southgate has previously said he would pick players on form and not reputation but the Manchester City midfielder is clearly a favourite. Delph started just one Premier League game after Christmas as he watched City’s title win from the sidelines. He admitted last week he was always honoured to be selected for England but his start against Holland proved he is one of Southgate’s go-to guys.
Teams must get used to VAR frustration
Lingard looked to have put England into the final with his cool strike only for the Video Assistant Referee to disallow it for offside. It was the tightest of decisions and stopped England’s celebrations in their tracks. While it was correct – with Lingard’s toe offside – the agonising delay will become the norm.
Provided by Press Association Sport