Bellingham salvages last-gasp draw for England against Belgium


Jude Bellingham’s last-gasp equaliser salvaged a 2-2 draw for England against Belgium and avoided a second consecutive defeat at Wembley in a matter of days.

Defensive errors came to the fore again for England, who looked to be heading for yet another defeat to a FIFA top 10-ranked opponent, but Bellingham, who had missed two golden opportunities earlier in the match, spared the hosts’ blushes.

Gareth Southgate’s side’s problems started early on with Man City defender John Stones limping off, before Youri Tielemans capitalised on a Jordan Pickford error to give Belgium the lead.

John Stones limped off injured during England's match against Belgium
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John Stones limped off injured during England’s match against Belgium

The hosts, missing the likes of Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka and Kyle Walker through injury, responded well to those early setbacks as Ivan Toney won and scored a penalty to bring England level.

Jarrod Bowen had a goal disallowed by VAR for offside and Bellingham missed a sitter before Wembley was left stunned again as Tielemans headed home Romelu Lukaku’s cross to restore Belgium’s lead going into the interval.

England pushed for an equaliser after the break but Bellingham headed another glorious opportunity wide before the impressive Kobbie Mainoo was denied by a smart save from Matz Sels.

Phil Foden then sent a strike wide of the far post as the Three Lions looked to be stuttering towards another defeat, but Bellingham popped up to have the final say on what was a difficult night for England.

Questions still remain for the Euro 2024 favourites. Southgate’s record against top 10 nations now reads seven wins, seven draws, and 11 defeats and with time starting to run out, there is still plenty to be resolved ahead of the tournament in Germany this summer.

Peter Smith’s player ratings…

England: Pickford (5), Konsa (6), Stones (N/A), Dunk (5), Chilwell (6), Mainoo (8), Rice (6), Bellingham (8), Bowen (7), Toney (8), Foden (7).

Subs: Gomez (6), Maddison (7), Gordon (6), Watkins (6)

Belgium: Sels (6), Castagne (6), Debast (6), Vertonghen (5), Theate (6), Mangala (6), Onana (7), Tielemans (8), Trossard (6), Doku (7), Lukaku (7).

Subs: Lukebakio (6), Vranckz (6), Meunier (6), Batshuayi (6), Faes (6), Openda (6)

Player of the Match: Jude Bellingham (England)

In pictures: Last-gasp relief for England

Bellingham
Rice and Bellingham
England

How Bellingham rescued England…

Jude Bellingham celebrates an England goal against Belgium
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Jude Bellingham celebrates an England goal against Belgium

England made a slow start to the game and they weren’t helped by yet another injury. Stones raised his hand to the bench after appearing to pick up a knock before limping off to be replaced by Joe Gomez just days ahead of Manchester City’s huge Premier League clash against Arsenal, which is live on Sky Sports.


Sunday 31st March 4:00pm


Kick off 4:30pm


Southgate: No regrets over Stones

England manager Gareth Southgate:

“The first game wasn’t a game which was a high level in terms of intensity. We’ve done exactly what Holland did with Van Dijk, what Norway did with Odegaard, Ake and Haaland. It only seems to fall on us when there’s a question on that.

“Of course, we’re disappointed if he’s got a problem. It looks like it’s in the adductor area. He came in on the back of not playing for two weeks, so it’s not about overload. But I hate sending players back to their clubs injured.”

England’s problems deepened moments later when the normally reliable Pickford gifted the visitors a goal. The Everton goalkeeper’s clearance was easily intercepted before Tielemans placed his long-range strike into the bottom corner with Pickford scrambling back into position.

The hosts weren’t behind for long, however, with Toney doing his hopes of securing a place in Southgate’s Euro 2024 squad no harm. The Brentford striker latched onto Bellingham’s pass inside the penalty area before being brought down by Jan Vertonghen, and he made no mistake from the spot to bring England level.

Ivan Toney celebrates after equalising for England from the penalty spot
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Ivan Toney celebrates after equalising for England from the penalty spot

Pickford then had to be alert to deny Jeremy Doku with a smart save before England got a grip of the game. Bowen saw his first England goal chalked off by VAR for offside before the West Ham forward curled an effort over from the corner of the penalty area.

Then came a moment that stunned Wembley. Bellingham proved he is human after all as England won the ball back high up the pitch before the Real Madrid star, who had a clear sight on goal, blazed high over the bar from eight yards.

All England’s good work going forward was undone in the 36th minute as Romelu Lukaku’s cross teed up an unmarked Tielemans for his second of the night to send Belgium in at the break in front after a manic 45 minutes.

Youri Tielemans celebrates after giving Belgium a first-half lead against England
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Youri Tielemans celebrates after giving Belgium a first-half lead against England

England, who came out for the second half without names on their shirts to highlight memory loss as one of the symptoms of dementia, pushed for an equaliser as Foden teed up Toney, but the striker’s effort was turned behind by Matz Sels at his near post.

England team news

Five of the England line-up who started against Brazil on Saturday kept their places, with the most notable new face full debutant Kobbie Mainoo, who slotted into midfield..

Ivan Toney also started for is his first appearance for the Three Lions in exactly a year.

Elsewhere, Ezri Konsa continued at right-back after replacing the injured Kyle Walker, Lewis Dunk partnered John Stones, and Jarrod Bowen made only a fourth England start.

Bellingham was again guilty of wastefulness in front of goal as he headed Gomez’s cross wide from a glorious position before the impressive Mainoo was denied by a smart save by Sels at his near post.

Foden then fired wide as England looked set to fall short until Bellingham’s stoppage-time strike brought some smiles back to England faces.

When is England’s Euro 2024 squad announced?

Gareth Southgate is set to name a preliminary England squad for Euro 2024 on Tuesday May 21 – two days after the Premier League season ends.

The size of that squad is not yet confirmed but it is expected to be bigger than the 23-player squad allowed for next summer’s tournament.

The players selected will then have a final chance to impress the England boss with the Three Lions set to play warm-up fixtures against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday June 3 and Iceland on Friday June 6.

England’s final 23-player squad has to be confirmed by Sunday June 8. The tournament starts on Friday June 14 with England’s first game in Germany against Serbia on Saturday June 15.

England’s lengthy injury list…

  • Harry Kane
  • Bukayo Saka
  • Kyle Walker
  • John Stones
  • Harry Maguire
  • Reece James
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold
  • Luke Shaw
  • Sam Johnstone
  • Nick Pope
  • Callum Wilson
  • Marc Guehi
  • Levi Colwill
  • Tyrone Mings
  • Jack Grealish
  • Kieran Trippier

Bellingham pleased to spare England from any ‘rubbish’ from critics

Jude Bellingham celebrates an England goal against Belgium
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Jude Bellingham celebrates an England goal against Belgium

Speaking after the game, England goalscorer Bellingham was pleased to spare his side any “rubbish” from their critics after snatching the 2-2 draw.

He said: “Yeah I liked it because I know the rubbish we would have got if we lost two games on the bounce.

“These are two games that are going to stand us in good stead going into the Euros. I know people will be negative but you have to take these games for what they are.

“You’ve got to keep perspective. We had a lot of lads making debuts (this week) and a lot of lads I’ve never played with. We created a lot of chances. I should have scored (previously). I was happy I could make it up to the team.”

Bellingham also spoke up for Southgate, who has been working with a severely-depleted squad and saw Stones join a lengthy injury list early in the match.

“Of course it’s hard for the gaffer, people need to realise how hard it is. You come into these games expecting a fully-fit team and expect to give it a really good crack,” added the midfielder.

“It’s a really difficult one for us, but I’m sure he’s glad with the players he got to see over the two games.

“I’m never happy to lose or draw but we’ve got to be happy with how they’ve played.”

Bowen: We deserved to win

England forward Jarrod Bowen on Sky Sports News:

“We did leave it late and kept everyone on their toes. It shows the resilience in the squad. We would’ve been disappointed with two defeats from two games and that’s not the standard we have set.

“Today we deserved more than a draw, but we kept fighting and got there in the end.

“Everyone played their part. Madders [substitute James Maddison] played the ball to Jude [for the equaliser] so it’s not just about the starting 11. A lot of players have played [in the past two games] and everyone has looked at ease.”

Southgate: Positives in squad depth

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Gareth Southgate says Kobbie Mainoo brings a different style of midfield play to the squad which is needed.

Before the game against Belgium, England boss Southgate said he has never experienced anything like the injury crisis England are in right now.

Stones is now added to that list and despite admitting the injuries are a concern, he said the positive is improved squad depth.

He said: “I’m a little bit lost as to who we’ve got and who we haven’t! The great thing is, there’s definitely some players who have emerged positively from the opportunities they’ve had. We’ve perhaps got more depth in one respect, but the injuries are a concern.

“We’ve got so many players missing at the moment with the real heat of the season to come, with the intensity of the games and what’s resting on them, we won’t know what we’re left with until right at the end.”

On whether he is any closer to knowing the make up of his 23-man squad for the Euros, he added: “There’s so many unknowns about the 23 in terms of who might be available. These performances were very important to see whether these players could play against high-level opposition.

“But equally how they play in their games between now and the end of the season in big matches will have a high tariff too.

“I wanted to see Anthony Gordon again, I thought he had an excellent impact in the first game, and I thought James Maddison could open things up a bit for us.”

Southgate delights in Mainoo performance

England manager Gareth Southgate:

“Kobbie’s attributes are there for everyone to see. The ability to receive under pressure and ride challenges, to manipulate the ball in tight areas.

“We were a little bit more open, there’s no doubt about that. We wanted to press aggressively, and there’s times we turned the ball over on the edge of their box when we had chances we should have taken.

“We had problems in other ways with their players pulling wide and leaving Lukaku one-on-one. He gives us a different profile in midfield to anything we’ve got, he’s adapted and adjusted brilliantly.

“You can’t believe his age really, that he’s taken everything in his stride in as he has.”

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Ivan Toney was full of praise for Kobbie Mainoo after the Manchester United midfielder made his England debut against Belgium.

Tedesco: England were really strong

Belgium manager Domenico Tedesco:

“I’m disappointed, with five seconds to go you can win at Wembley and it would be of course something very special.

“If we have a look at the game, I think England were really strong, created many chances and you had a feeling from the beginning they wanted to win the second game here.

“The result is okay in the end.”

Tedesco: Speed of England attack difficult to defend

Belgium manager Domenico Tedesco added:

“It’s difficult to analyse because the speed they put inside is unbelievable, they play one touch which isn’t that easy.

“We conceded a penalty when we could drop earlier but it’s not easy, they have quality in all positions and this is without Harry Kane.

“You saw we wanted not to give too much space in between the lines because they look for the overlaps in the middle.

“They were a little bit surprised in the first 15 minutes, we scored but could have made more chances. In the second half we controlled things more, we changed the shape and pressed them higher.

“But overall it’s not easy to control teams for 90 minutes. Not here.”

What’s next for England?

Gareth Southgate is set to name a preliminary England squad for Euro 2024 on Tuesday May 21 – two days after the Premier League season ends.

England then play two more international friendlies against Bosnia and Herzegovina at St James’ Park on June 3 and Iceland at Wembley on June 7 before Southgate’s final 23-player squad has to be confirmed by Sunday June 8.

The tournament starts on Friday June 14 with England’s first game in Germany against Serbia on Saturday June 15.



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