LONDON (AFP) – Gareth Southgate admitted he was impressed with Jack Grealish as the England winger sparkled and Harry Maguire enjoyed a moment of redemption in Thursday night’s 3-0 friendly win against the Republic of Ireland.
Just 48 hours after the resignation of English Football Association Chairman Greg Clarke following his offensive comments on certain communities, Southgate’s side showed no signs of being distracted by the controversy.
After being sent off in his previous England appearance against Denmark, Maguire captained his country for the first time and scored the opening goal at Wembley.
It was a welcome boost for Maguire, who has endured a difficult campaign marred by his Greek court case and poor form for Manchester United and England.
Jadon Sancho bagged England’s second goal before the interval and Dominic Calvert-Lewin made it three with a second-half penalty.
That was enough to seal England’s first success against the Republic since 1985.
Grealish, starting against the country he represented at youth level, caught the eye on the left flank as he justified the constant calls from fans and pundits for the Aston Villa star to be given a sustained run in the team.
“The two players in those roles, Jadon and Jack, they’ve got the freedom to go either side of the pitch and try and create overloads,” Southgate said.
“I thought at times both of them did that really well. Of course, as soon as they are turned and running at people, they are a real problem for the opponent.”
There was a landmark moment for Jude Bellingham, who became the third youngest player to represent England when the 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder came on for Mason Mount in the 73rd minute.
Bellingham, who left Birmingham to join Dortmund earlier this year, is behind only Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney in the list of England’s youngest players.
The teenager is one for the future, but Southgate will have been more encouraged by the way his understudies impressed after he rested Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson before the Nations League games against Belgium tomorrow and Iceland next Wednesday.
“I was very pleased with the way the boys played. A lot of young players, a lot of inexperienced players, we used the ball very well, created a lot of chances, could have been more comfortable if we’d taken some of those chances but overall very pleased,” Southgate said.
“We were a bit slow at the start but that’s understandable. It’s not a team that have had a lot of time to work together.
“The longer they went on, some of the inter-play, some of the play between our attacking 10s and our wing-backs in particular was very good.”