Thursday 17 October 2019

Stones and Barkley errors cost England a Nations final chance

Netherlands 3 England 1

A combination of Quincy Promes and England's Kyle Walker puts the Netherlands in the lead in extra-time. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
A combination of Quincy Promes and England's Kyle Walker puts the Netherlands in the lead in extra-time. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Miguel Delaney

The Nations League won't offer the end to England's long wait for silverware, but has instead offered a showcase of what happens at the end of a long club season.

A game characterised by calamitous errors saw Gareth Southgate's side ultimately gifting a good, but erratic, Dutch side a place in Sunday's final. John Stones and Ross Barkley made two terrible errors which lead directly to two of the Dutch goals.

It summed up the entire game that the decisive goal to make it 2-1 was an own goal. We will at least be spared tedious debates over whether this competition represents a proper trophy, but it will result in more arguments about some of the players, not least Stones.

The tough truth for him is that this has been a continuation of some of his club form, even if that was accentuated by the type of game this was, coming so soon after the end of the club season. The Nations League thereby ended up becoming the kind of low-intensity, high-error friendly everyone once presumed it would be, but only because of timing rather than a lack of tension.

Even Virgil van Dijk - somewhat forgivably, given he was celebrating so effusively just days ago - looked off his level. His central defensive partner Matthijs de Ligt, perhaps, personified the match. He was responsible for some awful errors, not least the opening goal, but still scored the equaliser to stoke a genuinely entertaining game.

The entire match similarly involved a pattern that is wholly familiar. With a far superior midfield, Netherlands were controlling the ball and the centre of the pitch … but also making the kind of mistakes that are so susceptible to surges of speed.

Matthijs de Ligt equalises for the Netherlands. Photo: REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
Matthijs de Ligt equalises for the Netherlands. Photo: REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

England, of course, have that in abundance and made De Ligt look less look like a young Ronald Koeman as a 40-year-old Lothar Matthaus.

He miscontrolled the ball badly and in a panic he clumsily brought Marcus Rashford to the ground. There was nothing clumsy about Rashford's penalty. He stroked it away so well to make it four goals in his last six for England.

De Ligt, however, made up for his error with 17 minutes remaining when he thundered in the equaliser from a header.

The attempts of Stones and Walker to challenge him were still nowhere near as close as the VAR offside call for Jesse Lingard's strike, but offside it was. If only marginally so. The score remained at 1-1 and onto extra time.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford reacts after conceding an own goal scored by Kyle Walker. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford reacts after conceding an own goal scored by Kyle Walker. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

The rustiness returned as Stones, again, got himself utterly stuck doing the one thing in the game he is supposed to be so good at as he gave away possession and was punished when Memphis's effort deflected in off Walker.

Barkley, then produced his own moment of madness in possession, setting up Memphis who squared for substitute Quincy Promes to score and seal the game for the Netherlands.(© Independent News Service)

Netherlands' Quincy Promes taps in their third goal after another England mistake at the back. Photo: REUTERS/Susana Vera
Netherlands' Quincy Promes taps in their third goal after another England mistake at the back. Photo: REUTERS/Susana Vera
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

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