Tuesday 22 October 2019

Raheem Sterling defends England after Nations League defeat as Jamie Carragher questions John Stones

England's John Stones appears dejected at the final whistle. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
England's John Stones appears dejected at the final whistle. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

England captain Raheem Sterling admitted his side made too many errors as they were beaten 3-1 by Holland in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals.

John Stones was guilty of a howling defensive error in extra-time that handed Holland victory, after Ronald Koeman's side recovered from falling behind to an early Marcus Rashford penalty thanks to a second half equaliser from Matthijs de Ligt.

England were denied what they felt was a winning goal as Jesse Lingard fired home a shot before VAR was used to cancel out the goal on an off-side decision, before first Stones and then Ross Barkley were exposed playing balls out from defence, with a Kyle Walker own goal and a late clincher from Quincy Promes deciding the game.

Sterling was forced to accept England had been guilty of contributing to their own downfall, as he offered up these comments to Sky Sports.

"Towards the end of the second half I thought we were the better team but we made some silly mistakes and were punished for it," said Sterling.

"The team was slightly altered today. A few players were missing that usually play. But players come in and do a job and that's what they did today. It was only Declan's (Rice) second start and he did well but it wasn't to be.

"We have still made progress to get to this stage but it is about kicking on and making that last step now."

England manager Gareth Southgate refused to point accusing fingers at his players, as he insisted his side will learn from their defeat.

"It was an incredible evening with all of the twists and turns of the match," said Southgate. "I think we have learned so much in terms of playing against a top-quality team that posed us different problems to what we have faced in the past.

"We posed a threat in the game but we have conceded really poor goals. We had opportunities to score but we haven't taken them. At 85 minutes, you think you have scored to put you into a great position to go through, but with that being disallowed and then conceding the second really deflated the team.

"When you're fatigued mistakes happen and the mistakes are passes our players can play with no problem. The Dutch pressed very well with a real intensity and were not quite as sharp on some of the decision-making. I think it's a really important game for us to reflect on, and the next few days will be painful having got to this stage, but we will be stronger for the experience."

Former England defender Jamie Carragher was less forgiving, as he insisted an eagerness to play out from the back was not to the root problem for Southgate's side and questioned the form and abilities of Stones, who was not a regular starter for Manchester City this season.

"John Stones is facing his goalkeeper and he is passing it – he doesn’t have to go long," said Carragher. "It’s stupid. That’s got nothing to do with going long. He’s made stupid mistake and a stupid decision to turn on it and try and be clever.

"I just don't feel he has kicked on since his move to Manchester City. He is not first choice defender for his manager Pep Guardiola and maybe we saw why in this game.

"England never took risks tonight. The goals didn’t come from risks and it never came from playing out from the back, it came from stupid decisions."

Ex-England defender Gary Neville suggested England will need to consider altering their defensive set-up if they want to convert their potential into success in major tournaments.

"Gareth Southgate will rue those errors by Stones and Barkley in really bad errors, but those errors have been coming all night," stated Neville. "He will have to think about whether he goes to a back-three. That back-four…I’m not sure it will be good enough against a top team.

"The midfield just didn’t look competent against a really good midfield. England will need to improve."

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