» Sports » Nations League: England stun Belgium; France-Portugal in goalless draw

Nations League: England stun Belgium; France-Portugal in goalless draw

October 12, 2020 14:52 IST
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Images from the UEFA Nations League group matches played on Sunday.

IMAGE: England's players celebrate after Mason Mount scored the second goal against Belgium, during the UEFA Nations League group stage match at Wembley stadium, in London, on Sunday. Photograph: Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images

Marcus Rashford’s penalty and a deflected strike from Mason Mount helped England come from a goal down to overcome top-ranked Belgium 2-1 at Wembley on Sunday and climb above them in their UEFA Nations League group.


Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring for the visitors from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after being brought down by a lunging tackle from England’s Eric Dier. It was the Inter Milan striker’s 13th goal in his last 11 matches for his country.

The Belgians pressed forward, with Yannick Carrasco and Kevin de Bruyne finding space and time to create seven shots on goal to England’s two in the first half.

Part of England’s struggle to make opportunities stemmed from manager Gareth Southgate fielding a five-man back line, and perhaps from his decision to leave midfielder Jack Grealish - man-of-the-match for his creative efforts in a midweek 3-0 friendly win over Wales - on the bench.

Nevertheless, when England won a corner late in the half, Belgium’s Thomas Meunier clumsily pulled down the hosts’ captain Jordan Henderson to concede a penalty.

Rashford converted from the spot to register his 11th goal in an England shirt.

IMAGE: Marcus Rashford scores England's first goal from the penalty spot. Photograph: Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images

England then picked up the pace in the second half and got their reward through Mount in the 64th minute with a shot that took a heavy deflection off the boot of Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld, looping over keeper Simon Mignolet into the far corner of the net.

Southgate praises England resilience in win over top-ranked Belgium

"It doesn’t matter how they go in. I found myself with a bit of space in the box and only had one thing on my mind, to get the ball out of my body and shoot. A big deflection, but you'll take them," Mount told Sky Sports.

Despite Belgium pushing forward repeatedly, England kept their shape and ran the clock down to record a win that put them on seven points in the Nations League group to Belgium’s six.

“They made it tough for us, we were hanging in there at halftime, we got back into it at 1-1, and we knew we could regroup then, talk about the things we could do better, and fix the problems we were having,” Mount said.

"We've got the mentality, we've got the work ethic to get better and better and that's the path we're on."

France and Portugal in goalless stalemate

IMAGE: Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo in action during their match against France. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

France drew 0-0 at home to Portugal in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday in a cagey clash between the world and European champions which largely failed to live up to its billing.

The teams could only manage one shot on target in the first half, a hopeful attempt by Antoine Griezmann from the tightest of angles which stung the hands of keeper Rui Patricio.

Cristiano Ronaldo came closest to scoring when he fired a left-footed strike at goal in added time but his deflected shot was well saved by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Ronaldo also nearly scored in the first half but France defender Lucas Hernandez produced an excellent sliding block, while Ronaldo vented his frustration at team mate Joao Felix after the forward skewed wide as he met a cross which Ronaldo was waiting to turn into the net.

The result kept holders Portugal top of League A Group 3 with seven points after three games, while France are second, also with seven. Croatia are third on three after winning 2-1 at home to Sweden, who are bottom with no points.

“We were very consistent defensively, but we lacked a goal. We had a few opportunities to score and didn’t, but both teams were good defensively and offensively,” said Portugal defender Raphael Guerreiro.

Team mate Nelson Semedo explained his side’s conservative tactics.

“We’ve picked up a good result in a game where both sides would have made the most from any mistake. We have to be cautious in games like this,” he said.

IMAGE: France striker Olivier Giroud tries to get the ball past Portugal's Nelson Semedo. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Portugal defender Pepe looked to have finally broken the deadlock late on when he placed a diving header in the net following a free kick but he was ruled offside.

This was the teams’ first meeting since Portugal’s extra-time win over France in the Euro 2016 final but the game could hardly have felt more different, with only nine players who started that showpiece game starting the match on Sunday.

Only 1,000 fans were let in to the 80,000-capacity Stade de France due to coronavirus restrictions and neither side played with much urgency, looking content enough to cancel each other out.

France coach Didier Deschamps praised his side’s defensive work.

“We can always do better, but given the quality of the opponent we took precautions, and we did not see much of Ronaldo this evening,” he said.

“Our attackers struggled, sometimes our movement was not good, at other moments we could not make the final pass.”

Bosnia hold Dutch to goalless draw

IMAGE: Donyell Malen of the Netherlands is tackled by Bosnia and Herzegovina's Darko Todorovic. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Bosnia and Herzegovina put the disappointment of European Championship playoff elimination behind them to hold the Netherlands to a goalless draw in their Nations League A Group 1 match on Sunday.

The Bosnians had lost on penalties to Northern Ireland on Thursday in the playoff semi-final but will be lifted by a dogged performance against the disappointing Dutch, particularly after starting without several key players.

The result left the Dutch, who were runners-up in the inaugural Nations League, with four points from three games while Bosnia have two.

New Netherlands coach Frank de Boer is still awaiting a first win after a home loss to Mexico in a friendly last Wednesday. They play Italy away on Wednesday.

The Dutch threatened early with defender Stefan de Vrij finding space in between the Bosnian defence in their penalty area but got only a glancing touch to a good heading opportunity in the fifth minute.

Quincy Promes booted a shot well over the top in another half chance for the Dutch and De Vrij had another glancing header in a limp first half from both sides.

Bosnia came alive when 34-year-old skipper Edin Dzeko was sent on as a substitute for the last half hour.

He was immediately involved in several breakaways, the best of which saw him set up Miralem Pjanic up for a shot that forced Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen into his first save of the game, after 68 minutes.

That stirred De Boer into making changes and two new players the right hand side quickly lifted the Dutch out of their lethargy.

Frenkie de Jong got the visitors’ first shot on target in the 77th minute, turned away by Bosnia goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic, and from the resultant corner Luuk de Jong watched in disbelief as his powerful header was also pushed around the post in a breathtaking save.

With five minutes left, Frenkie de Jong should have finished off a pull back from Steven Berghuis but defender Darko Todorovic dived to block the goal-bound effort.

In stoppage time, Ryan Babel should have snatch a late winner but blasted wide from point-blank range to sum up a disappointing night for the Dutch.

Haaland nets Norway hat-trick

IMAGE: Norway's Erling Haaland celebrates scoring their first goal against Ireland. Photograph: Stian Lysberg Solum/NTB via Reuters

Ireland hung on for a gritty 0-0 draw at home to Wales in their UEFA Nations League B Group 4 game in Dublin on Sunday and Erling Haaland hit a superb hat-trick as Norway hammered Romania 4-0 in Oslo in Group 1.

The Irish had to overcome the loss of seven players to COVID-19 precautions as forwards Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly were already excluded, and an unnamed player who tested positive for the virus and four more who were deemed to be close contacts were also stood down.

With the sides evenly matched, Ireland’s Shane Long and Daryl Horgan had the best of the chances in the second half. However, a red card for winger James McClean seven minutes from time hampered the home side further and the game finished in a draw.

The result left Wales top of Group 4 on seven points after three games, one ahead of Finland, who comfortably beat Bulgaria 2-0 in Helsinki. Ireland are third on two points, with Bulgaria bottom on one.

In the other early-evening League B game, playmaker Martin Odegaard set up Erling Haaland for two of his three goals as Norway thumped Romania to leave them second in the group behind Austria, who beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in Belfast.

In Group, 2 Lyndon Dykes scored as Scotland beat bottom side Slovakia 1-0 to go top on seven points, with the Czech Republic, who won 2-1 in Israel, second on six points.

Group 3 leaders Russia were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Turkey, with Hungary making the most of that result by beating bottom side Serbia 1-0 to move into second place on six points, one behind the leaders.

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