Football

England's Southgate defends no-sub call after draw

England concede late Polish equaliser after trying to see out 1-0 lead with no subs

England manager Gareth Southgate defended his decision not to use any substitutes in the 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw against hosts Poland yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Poles used all five of their substitutes and ended strongly, grabbing their equaliser in stoppage time.

Poland midfielder Damian Szymanski headed in a cross by Robert Lewandowski to cancel out Harry Kane's 72nd-minute opener as they ended England's 100 per cent record in Group I.

"We were playing well, we were in control. At those moments, it's not easy to come on as a substitute and we would be taking people off for the sake of it, frankly," said Southgate.

"We were in total control, there was no issue, why disrupt it when you're in control?"

Despite the draw, the Three Lions, who had won their first five qualifiers, are still four points clear of second-placed Albania and five ahead of Poland.

Southgate said the game had been the hardest test his side had faced since losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties in July.

"It was no surprise that this was the hardest game in the group. Early in the game, we were a little slow to move the ball and Poland pressed us well.

"As the half wore on, we started to get a grip of the game and gain more control without making really any clear chances - other than Harry Kane's header at the far post.

"In the second half, we controlled the game. If there's a criticism, it's that we didn't create enough clear chances from that possession and we didn't get enough players in the box."

CONTEXT

England showed little desire to add to their one-goal lead and paid the price, but Southgate said the result had to be put in the context of a three-game span which saw 4-0 wins in Hungary and at home to Andorra.

"While it's one-nil, you run the risk of what happened at the end. We're clearly disappointed not to get the three points, but I have to look at what the players have done across these three matches," Southgate said.

"Given that there was no way of telling how they would react after what happened in the (Euro 2020 final), I think their mentality and application has been really good."

It had been an unremarkable game until the final 20 minutes, with a mass scuffle on the halftime whistle the most notable incident of the first half.

Poland defender Kamil Glik and England's Harry Maguire were booked following the pushing and shoving outbreak.

But, after the break, the game continued with England passing conservatively and the hosts defending stoutly.

But Kane silenced the Warsaw crowd when he picked the ball up deep and beat Wojciech Szczesny from almost 30 metres with a shot that swerved late.

It was the 15th straight qualifier, for Euros and World Cup, in which Kane has scored and it looked to have brought a sixth straight win in this campaign.

But Paulo Sousa's side rallied and in the second minute of stoppage time, Lewandowski carved out some space for a cross from the left and Szymanski timed his jump and header perfectly.

Poland have lost only twice in the 28 games that they have played at the national stadium in Warsaw since it opened in 2012, with their last competitive defeat being a 3-1 loss to Ukraine in a 2014 World Cup qualifier. - AFP, REUTERS

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