Southgate: It’s in our hands now

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Published: Sunday 21st June 2015 by The News Editor

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Gareth Southgate believes England Under-21s have stemmed the bleeding and can kick on from their late European Championship win against Sweden.

For a long time it looked like the Young Lions would fall short in Olomouc, having struggled to respond to defeat in their Group B opener against Portugal.

However, just as Southgate’s men seemed to be running out ideas, their hopes of progression got a timely shot in the arm as Jesse Lingard fired home an 85th-minute volley to secure a somewhat fortuitous 1-0 win.

It was the Under-21s’ first finals victory in six years and boosted their chances of securing a top-two finish ahead of Wednesday’s group finale against Italy.

“After the game the other night, we had to stop the bleeding a little bit,” head coach Southgate said.

“We’d had hammer blows with the two injuries to outstanding players then the manner of the goal we conceded and the defeat, so we had to do a lot of work making sure all of the noise around us didn’t affect us.

“We’ve made a step in the right direction, it’s in our hands now. We can watch the game tonight (Italy v Portugal) and see what emerges from that but in the end in all likeliness we’ll need to beat Italy.

“But now I think the momentum starts to swing with us a little bit now and that’s very important in football.”

Southgate was impressed by his players’ character and resilience against a tough, organised Swedish side, buoyed by their surprise victory against the Italians.

The head coach was quick to praise Ruben Loftus-Cheek for his performance after coming off the bench, so too fellow substitute Lingard.

This has been a difficult season for the 22-year-old, having sustained a serious knee injury in Manchester United’s season opener against Swansea.

It took Lingard six months to return to the field and had to do so in the Championship, ending the season on loan with Derby

“He’s an intelligent footballer,” said Southgate, who was joined in the dressing room after the match by senior team manager Roy Hodgson.

“He’s got very clean feet, sharp coming in from the lane, good movement. He’s more the kind of wide player who’s going to play and follow, but he’s also got a goal in him because he’s a calm finisher.

“He’s been a player at United since very young, physically a late developer and they’ve had to wait for him.

“He started the first game of the season for United’s first team and got a really bad injury. We kept contact with him and made sure he stayed part of the group.”

Unfortunately, Lingard’s chance only came about due to Alex Pritchard’s misfortune.

The Tottenham winger was one of England’s better players in what was a frustrating display, but was forced off after 55 minutes and left the stadium on crutches, with his right foot in a protective boot.

“We have to have a look,” Southgate said. “It’s an ankle injury – didn’t look very good when he was coming off.”

As for Sweden, defeat was difficult to take for their players and head coach Hakan Ericson.

“I’m very disappointed with the result, but I’m also proud of our performance,” he said.

“I think we made an equal game against England. England had more possession but it was in our game plan.

“We defended very well and we played good football. I’m not satisfied with our attacking play in the first 15 minutes of the second half but then we came back.

“In this game there were very few chances. Today is a tough day but tomorrow we’ll look to the future – we still have a good position in the group.”

Published: Sunday 21st June 2015 by The News Editor

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