Hodgson hails super-subs

Published: Wednesday 1st April 2015 by The News Editor

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Roy Hodgson hailed Andros Townsend and Ross Barkley after the pair helped England salvage a 1-1 draw against Italy in Turin.

England looked destined for defeat after a poor first-half performance, but Townsend scored a stunning 20-yard strike just nine minutes after his introduction from the bench.

Barkley also impressed in his role as a second-half substitute, driving at the Italy defence, which had looked impregnable during the first half.

“To say I was more happy with the second half than the first would be the understatement of the year,” the England manager said.

“We fell well below the standards we’ve been setting and the whole game was very much a friendly atmosphere.

“But the second half was much closer to what we’re trying to do and Ross and Andros can take a lot of credit for us injecting so much more tempo and pace into our game.”

Harry Kane made a big impact after his introduction from the bench against Lithuania, but on Tuesday night it was his Tottenham team-mate who stole the limelight.

Shortly after coming on for the ineffective Fabian Delph, Townsend fired a fierce drive past Gianluigi Buffon to earn England a creditable 1-1 draw at the Juventus Stadium.

Townsend struck a superb winner on his international debut against Montenegro to help England qualify for the World Cup and Hodgson was happy to see him make a telling contribution in what has turned out to be a difficult season for the player.

“I stuck by him because of the qualities he brings,” Hodgson said of Townsend, who lost form last year and started just two Premier League games before January.

“He’s got that ability, Andros, to get turned around very quickly and run at enormous pace with skill at defenders and that’s something defenders don’t like.

“We’ve always appreciated that quality he has. In a squad of 20-odd players, there should be a place for guys like him because he’s a game changer.

“You could say the same about Ross Barkley.”

Hodgson also praised Kane for the performance he put in on his first start against an experienced Italian defence.

The 21-year-old failed to have an impact in the first half, but improved as the match went on, particularly when he played alongside Rooney, rather than Theo Walcott, who was substituted 55 minutes into another poor display.

“I thought Harry Kane did very well,” Hodgson said.

“It wasn’t an easy game, playing against three very experienced, tough defenders. He got helped a bit more when Wayne went up front, but I’m more than satisfied personally with his performance.

“It’s been a good 10 days for him. He’s scored on debut and played 90 minutes of a tough game. He’ll gain a lot of benefit from that.”

Kane and Rooney had chances to steal the win for England in the dying minutes as the visitors ended on top, but Hodgson will be happy to return home knowing his unbeaten run now stretches to nine matches.

There were few things for the England boss to be happy about in the first half though.

England lacked width, invention and a killer punch up front. Further back, Hodgson’s decision to field Phil Jones as a holding midfielder looked to be a poor one. The Manchester United man appeared uncomfortable there and he allowed Giorgio Chiellini to brush past him and set Graziano Pelle up for Italy’s opener.

Hodgson defended the 23-year-old after the match, but admitted England looked far more comfortable when Jones moved to centre-half and Michael Carrick was deployed at the bottom of the midfield diamond after replacing the ill Chris Smalling.

“In that first half we experimented with Phil in the centre of midfield because we feel that, in a destroyer-type role, that could be useful on occasion in the future,” Hodgson said.

“I didn’t think Phil played badly in that position. But with the way we like to play, it was much better when Michael came on.

“I don’t want to criticise any players.

“I don’t think we should write it off as an experiment which didn’t work. He didn’t do badly at all.”

Italy coach Antonio Conte was happy with a draw, even though his team dominated the first half.

“It was a fair result,” he said.

“We were playing against a top side with very good players.

“We must not forget England had won seven matches (in a row) before they came here.”

Published: Wednesday 1st April 2015 by The News Editor

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