Don’t expect champagne football, says unapologetic Southgate

England’s Interim manager Gareth Southgate watches his players from the touchline during the friendly international football match between England and Spain at Wembley Stadium, north-west London, on November 15, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS /

Gareth Southgate tried to assuage fans’ disappointment at England’s lacklustre performance in a flattering 4-0 win over minnows Malta in their 2018 World Cup qualifier saying it was nothing new.

The 46-year-old — who saw late goals by Ryan Bertrand, Danny Welbeck and a second for Harry Kane put a brighter hue on the scoreline — said he had experienced similar frustrations as a player in qualifiers.

The victory — Southgate’s first away win and only England’s second in their last six encounters — kept them two points clear in the group.

England can all but seal their place in Russia with another three points in Monday’s match with second-placed Slovakia at Wembley.

“I understand if we don’t score until late, the game feels different for everybody,” said Southgate.

“But I’ve played in so many qualifiers and watched so many qualifiers, and I don’t remember many of them being free-flowing, champagne football. It just hasn’t happened, especially when there’s no space to play.

“You have got to work your way into the opportunities.”

The England supporters — over 3,000 were present in Malta — had jeered, whistled and chanted at half-time with the side ranked 190th in the world locked at 0-0 and England looking unimaginative and very ordinary.

However, Southgate said unlike the supporters he had been impressed at how the players had stuck to the task.

Referring to the fans’ displeasure, Southgate said: “Look, I think we have to accept that.

“However, I’m really pleased with what the players have done because they’ve kept their focus, kept calm, they haven’t taken on ridiculous shots from outside the box, which I have seen us do, which relieves the pressure.

“In the end, the build-up of pressure opposition mounts and you get your goals.”

Southgate, who was capped 57 times but is perhaps best remembered for a missed penalty in the Euro ’96 semi-final shoot-out with eventual winners Germany, said that while the fans may be disappointed with the overall performance he and the squad had got the job done.

“We spoke before the game that if Germany were playing here, we’d probably look at the score and see 4-0 or something like that and think they’ve done a professional job,” he said.

“In the end, that’s what we’ve done in the end. It has taken a while to get the goals, but that’s a consequence of dominating the game, over 70 percent possession.”



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