England were held to a 1-1 draw with Hungary in their World Cup Qualifier; Luke Shaw gave away an early penalty, which was converted by Roland Sallai; John Stones equalised for England, but they could not find the winning goal in a below-par performance
Wednesday 13 October 2021 16:32, UK
Gareth Southgate described England's performance against Hungary as "disappointing" and says his side made lots of simple mistakes during the draw at Wembley.
After the highs of 2021 so far, it was a lacklustre showing from an England XI that would not be too far away from the strongest at Southgate's disposal.
Hungary took a shock lead when Luke Shaw was judged to have caught Loic Nego with a high boot, handing the visitors a penalty. Roland Sallai dispatched well, before John Stones equalised shortly after.
But despite a plethora of attacking talent, England were unable to find the winner against their well-drilled opponents, in stark contrast to the 4-0 victory in Budapest last month.
Southgate said: "It was a disappointing performance. Full credit to Hungary, I thought they caused us a tactical problem. We weren't fluid and I didn't think we played at the level we needed to play.
"It's difficult to pinpoint. We'll go away and think of the balance of the team a little bit, but individually, we can do better as well and we made lots of simple mistakes with the ball.
"I think we have to accept that we dipped below our usual levels. That was a surprise, but it was a night where individually and collectively, we didn't hit the heights we have been… we didn't quite do enough to win the game.
"We didn't create as much as we would have hoped, but we have to give Hungary credit to that. We lost a little bit of positional discipline at times so there's a lot for us to reflect on and work on.
"We wanted to try to get a spark. We'd struggled to create many clear chances and hoped freshness at that stage may have been able to produce that.
"We changed the system because we were a little open in counter-attacks and we had to solidify from that to start with. We hadn't been opening them up with 4-3-3, and so with two 10s and wing-backs we wanted to try to pose them a different problem. But we didn't create any more chances than we had been.
Nov 12 - Albania (h)
Nov 15 - San Marino (a)
"I thought we were a bit anxious with some of our passing and I thought we were trying to force things a little bit. We needed to simplify our game a little bit and move the ball more quickly at times. Lots that we can go away and feel like we should have been better at."
Southgate opted to play Declan Rice, Phil Foden and Mason Mount together in the midfield for the first time. However, the manager did not want to single out players, but rather look at the collective performance.
He added: "We've been 4-3-3 a lot, but with different profile of number eights. Today we wanted to look at something a bit different and didn't have Phillips anyway, who has been an essential part of that midfield, and we knew we had to break a packed defence tonight. I'm not certain it was about the profile of players… we didn't have the same fluidity we've come to expect.
"We shouldn't judge things on one game in terms of that sort of experiment because right across the board from the start, we weren't sharp with our play. We gave the ball away, we were overrunning things and I think we were underneath it. It's the first time in a long time and we have to hold our hands up to that."
It leaves England needing four points from their final two games against Albania and San Marino to qualify as Group I winners.
Southgate concluded: "It was one of those nights where we started poorly, we didn't get pressure on them, we gave needless passes away that led to counter-attacks which gives you the feeling you're stretched… it was unusually disjointed. We need to make sure we put it right for next month."
Declan Rice said it was difficult for England's attacking players to create against Hungary, and had his say on whether the visitors' penalty should have been given.
He told ITV: "You can say it [performance] was poor because we drew the game, but we dominated. It was a silly penalty to give away, but it was good to get back into the game. We had to keep our heads, had to keep playing, we just couldn't find that killer touch at the end to get the win.
It worked at times. I think it’s the first time me, Mason and Phil have played together. I’ve played with Mason, but never with Phil in the middle. It needs work, but it’s not going to be perfect after one game. There were still some lovely bits of play between us, but maybe out of possession, we got stretched at times. It was just about communicating and keeping our shape instead of trying to win the ball.
"Sometimes you have to give credit to how hard the opposition are. Hungary were much better than they were when we played them away. They were really tight, really compact, worked really hard and when you're playing against low blocks, it's hard for our attacking players to create stuff, but I still think we did enough to win the game.
"When you put your foot up that high, it always could be, but the way he went down was a bit pathetic if I'm honest. If you put your foot up that high in the box, it can always be a penalty, but I'm going to say it's not."
Shaw agreed with Rice's assessment of the penalty call, saying: "For me, it is soft. I don't know what else I can do in that situation, I was clearly first to the ball and I cleared the ball.
"It looked like he wasn't even going for the ball, I think he just knew my foot was a bit high so he just dived at my foot and rolled around like he had been shot.
"He got what he wanted and it is disappointing from the ref. That is my opinion and I think he was wrong.
"Sometimes silly decisions can turn the whole game completely on its head, a silly decision that could go either way."
Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane also gave plenty of credit to Hungary for holding England, telling ITV: "I think England had a bit of an off night. They weren't quite at it. From the first minute, they lacked a bit of energy, they were too casual, which lead to the penalty.
"But I would give all the credit to Hungary. They were outstanding and their coach must be delighted with them. Their form coming into the game, but over the last six months, we have seen them give good performances.
"But England were a bit off it and when you are and teams defend that well, you're in for a long night."
Hungary manager Marco Rossi believes his side were lucky to come up against an out-of-sorts England, but praised the effort of his players.
He said: "The guys followed the tactics from the beginning to the end and they put in something by themselves - their skills and their hearts. We were a bit lucky but we found an English team that was not properly on its best evening. If I'm not wrong, this is the first time Hungary take points from Wembley after the 6-3 [in 1953].
"After the last match against Albania, I was an idiot. We are out, but we are not the idiots many of our false supporters were saying about us."
Asked about fan trouble at the beginning of the game, where Hungary fans clashed with police, Rossi added: "No comment. I don't want to comment on this situation. It's not my task. Everything I could say could be interpreted in a different way."