SOUTHGATE ‘INCREDIBLY PROUD’ OF LIONS’ FIGHT
England boss Gareth Southgate hailed his side’s defensive qualities as they held Brazil to a goalless draw at Wembley last night.
England stifled superior opponents for the second time in under a week as Brazil followed Germany, last Friday, in settling for a Wembley stalemate.
And Southgate is taking the positives from keeping Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus quiet.
“In terms of heart, resilience and spirit it was up there with anything I have been involved in,” the former Middlesbrough boss said.
“Young players digging in, we just couldn’t move the ball as well as the other night.
“Tonight we just showed resilience, guts and some really outstanding defending against a top, top side.
“I am incredibly proud of what the players have done.
“We had the best defensive record in qualifying, we have just played the best two teams in the world and managed to keep two clean sheets, which gives us something to build on.
“We know we need to be better with the ball, I thought we were a bit anxious, but even then when you dig in like we did you get halfchances at the end, which could win you the game. “It is a base to work from.” On his youngsters, Southgate added: “It gives me plenty to think about.
“We are in the early stages of piecing this team together and it gives me huge heart.
“We took some brave decisions and, goodness me, the young players have rewarded me with some top performances.”
Liverpool defender Joe Gomez was making his first start and particularly impressed. Southgate added: “I thought all of the defending was outstanding, but him in particular, to come in for a game like that, with little experience, it was a really top, top performance.”
Full-strength Brazil dominated possession, but their vaunted front three laboured without reward.
Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke had a late chance to end England’s 2017 with a stunning debut winner, and it was also a night on which the likes of Joe Hart, Gomez and Kyle Walker earned plenty of credit for keeping a clean sheet under pressure.
Gomez was named man of the match for his composed performance at the back, the third rookie in as many games after Harry Winks and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to elbow his way into Southgate’s plans for Russia 2018.
Keeper Hart, back in the team after Jordan Pickford played against Germany, praised his defenders.
“We were playing the best team in the world at the moment, I thought they were brilliant,” Hart said.
“We had a game-plan to play in the first half and they made that hard for us so we had to adapt on the pitch and we did. As much as they had, I thought the back-line were absolutely phenomenal.
“It’s not a win but it’s a good performance. We have played against the best two teams in the world. We didn’t win, but we didn’t lose.”
Late on, Ashley Young hurled himself in the line of fire to block a Willian shot.
Hart made an equally important stop in the 84th minute, standing tall and taking Paulinho’s hard-hit effort in the chest.
With seconds remaining, Young bent a teasing cross to the far post and when the ball broke to Solanke he could not quite muster a finish from close range. Alisson thrust himself at the striker’s feet to ensure he could not recover the situation.
England defender Harry Maguire (left) clears the danger under pressure from Brazil striker Roberto Firmino last night, while Tammy Abraham (right) tries to make an impact
Joe Gomez moves in to rob Brazil’s Paulinho.