Gareth Southgate admits England 'got out of jail' against Iceland

  • Manager urges team to learn lessons after late scare
  • Kyle Walker and Joe Gomez criticised for errors

Gareth Southgate admitted England had “got out of jail” in the 1-0 Nations League win over Iceland and said that they had to learn from their errors, chiefly Kyle Walker’s red card and Joe Gomez’s stoppage-time penalty concession.

The manager was upset at Walker’s 70th-minute aberration in which the defender – back in the set-up for the first time in 15 months – mistimed a challenge when on a yellow card. Southgate noted how sendings‑off had previously cost England at major tournaments.

Gomez got away with his error when the Iceland midfielder Birkir Bjarnason missed from the spot, meaning that Raheem Sterling’s penalty, scored moments earlier, proved to be the winner. But Southgate did little to disguise his frustration at Gomez.

“The obvious lessons are the red card,” Southgate said. “You can’t make challenges like that. I know Kyle has held his hand up in the dressing room but it makes it so difficult to win games.

“And then to invite the pressure once we’d scored in the way that we did – that was another lesson we have to learn. We hadn’t really been in trouble up to that point and it’s a really basic penalty that we’ve given away. That took a bit of gloss off the win. We have to be tactically and psychologically more aware when we’re 1-0 up with 90-plus minutes gone.

“Kyle knows the situation. We all have to learn from that incident because we’ve gone out of tournaments before because we’ve been down to 10 men. That’s not a situation we’ve had in the four years I’ve been in charge. So the response to it from the rest of the team was good. But it put us in a really difficult situation and also we lose him now for the Denmark game [on Tuesday].

“If we had scored the late penalty and that had been the end of it, we’d have been talking about a performance of great character. We then give a really poor penalty away and it feels like we got out of jail.”

Walker, on the occasion of his 49th cap, was devastated at his dismissal. He had hoped to reach his half-century during this international window but that will not happen because of suspension. With competition for places in his position so intense, there are fears he could be stuck on 49 for some time.

“I have to take full blame,” Walker said. “I’m an experienced player and I should know I’m on a yellow card and to make a rash challenge like that is not acceptable from me.”

Asked if he was trying too hard to impress, Walker answered: “Possibly. That probably plays a big part in it but I don’t blame that. I’m a seasoned professional and I have played a lot of games. I should know how to manage a game if I’m on a yellow card. You have to say fair play to the lads for digging in and fighting and getting the win we needed.”

Southgate, who was unhappy that three rather than five substitutes were allowed – given the level of the players’ fitness – said he did not see the midfielder James Ward-Prowse appearing to scuff the penalty spot with his foot shortly before Bjarnason’s kick.

Jordan Pickford said England had “got away with one” when Bjarnason missed. He added: “With us getting a penalty down the other end – I haven’t seen it back but I think the referee might have made an early decision to just give it to them. But a 1-0 win away from home is good for us.”

• This article was amended on 6 September 2020. Birkir Bjarnason plays for Iceland, not Finland as an earlier version stated. This has been corrected.

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David Hytner

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