SOUTH­GATE ‘IN­CRED­I­BLY PROUD’ OF LIONS’ FIGHT

Sunderland Echo - - Football -

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.

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