Sport

Gareth Southgate lauds John Stones’ resilience in Poland win

England boss Gareth Southgate praised the response of John Stones after the defender recovered from gifting Poland an equaliser to set up Harry Maguire’s winner in a close-run World Cup qualifier.

The Three Lions dominated possession in the first-half and led through a Harry Kane penalty, only for Brighton striker Jakub Moder to pounce on Stones and steal possession before equalising.

Stones would regain his composure and head a corner back across goal for Maguire to fire home an 85th-minute strike to earn a 2-1 win and give England three wins from three in Group I.

England’s next competitive game will be the first match of the rescheduled European Championship and – with Stones starting all three March fixtures – Southgate was pleased with the reaction of the Manchester City man.

“It is key,” he said.

“Every player is going to make mistakes in games and sometimes they will be punished.

“What you’re looking for is the reaction to see how they respond. It would be easy to fold in those moments, John didn’t and that was an important factor in us staying in the game.

“He then had an intervention in the other box to set up Harry…I was pleased to see his reaction and it was important that the whole team showed that response.

“We have been focused on eradicating those errors and in the last 14 matches we have conceded five and of those, two were penalties and one was a free-kick.”

Attention for Southgate now immediately turns to who will make the cut for Euro 2020.

England’s first game of the competition comes against Croatia on June 13 at Wembley but Southgate admits the landscape is constantly changing with plenty of football to be played between now and then.

“We have some players in attacking areas who are out at the moment and are going to come into the reckoning – but we don’t know what that will be like in reality,” Southgate said.

“Sadly we are likely to lose some others – that is the reality and we are just going to have to monitor that and see where everybody is at.

“We are pretty much where we knew we were, there has been nothing over the last 10 days – good or bad – that has surprised me.

“That shows we know our players, where we are at and that there is improvement needed to be a top, top team.

“There are some young players doing some fantastic things. You forget sometimes how young and inexperienced some of those lads are and we know that a lot of them are going to peak in two, four, six years’ time.

“But we have to keep winning matches and we set a nine-point target (in the March games) and they have achieved that.”

The decision to award England a penalty was a controversial one as Raheem Sterling went down under a challenge from Barnsley defender Michal Helik.

Poland head coach Paulo Sousa has called for video assistant referee technology to be introduced in all major competitions as a result of conceding the penalty.

“At this level we need to have VAR,” he said.

“We need to have it because it give us more trust in the game, it helps the referee of course.

“But Erik can not go for a tackle inside the box, especially when the player is going out of the pitch, he is not going direct on our goal and we need to make better decisions and we need to have VAR in all competitions.”

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