Gareth Southgate said England “needed to be better” after ending their Euro 2020 warm-up with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Romania at the Riverside.
The England boss made nine changes from the side he had fielded against Austria on Wednesday, including three of the original 33-man squad who are slated to leave the group ahead of next week’s Euro 2020 opener with Croatia.
England stuttered to victory thanks to Marcus Rashford’s second-half penalty but debutant Sam Johnstone was the busier of the two goalkeepers in Middlesbrough, against a Romania side that sit 43rd in the FIFA rankings and have not qualified for the finals.
“I don’t think we were as good as we want to be, or that we need to be,” he told Sky Sports. “In the first half we used the ball reasonably well, our best moments were coming down the left, we needed to get the ball from right to left more urgently.
“We were a bit slow moving the ball, and in the final third we didn’t quite select the right pass or ran into traffic when we had a chance to create clearer opportunities.
“We didn’t do enough without the ball in the first half, especially our pressing from the front. That meant we were stretched, and we have to learn from that. We’ll play against better teams who will carve us apart; Romania created more opportunities than we would have liked, and gave our goalkeeper a nice debut in that he had a bit more to do than we wanted to see.
“We had a lot of inexperienced international players, three debuts, a couple of players asked to perform roles that aren’t their primary positions, Ben Godfrey especially, and a couple coming back from injuries.”
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Southgate will ‘pull rank’ on Henderson over penalties
Stand-in captain Jordan Henderson could have given England’s result a more comfortable appearance had he scored their second penalty in six minutes after Dominic Calvert-Lewin was fouled, but having taken the ball off the striker he missed from the spot.
Southgate told ITV: “We had Rashford on penalties and then Ward-Prowse, they’d both come off.
“We were expecting Dominic to take it, I was expecting Henderson to walk over and make sure he took it – so I’ll see what his thought process was there. We’ll pull rank on him over that.
“We’ve just got to keep building with Hendo, today was a good step forward, 45 minutes in the second half which we thought was a good time to bring him on when a little bit of the intensity is out of it. He’ll feel better from himself, it was good to get him out on the field, you can see the leadership he brings, and let’s hope that’s a positive step.”
Henderson himself laughed off the penalty miss, saying he felt sorry for Calvert-Lewin, who was searching for his fifth England goal – while the Liverpool captain is still yet to score for his country.
“I’ve missed bigger penalties than that, but I’m disappointed of course,” he told Sky Sports. “I felt more sorry for Dom, he let me have it, but unfortunately I couldn’t find the goal. I’m not fussed, I’m just happy to be back.
“It was good to get back on the pitch for 45 minutes after a while out, it was important physically and mentally to get some minutes. I’ve trained for a long time, overall pitch work, but the last few weeks, the back end of Liverpool’s season and now with England I’ve been with team training, and adapting for the last two or three weeks in terms of that.
“Today I’ve had that much training I felt really good, it was nice to be back and important to get minutes. We’re going to need all the squad, I’ve seen it happen many a time before, I’m just going to keep working hard and be ready.”
Who will replace Alexander-Arnold?
Southgate remained tight-lipped on who will be called up from his original 33-man squad to replace the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in the final 26, on the back of impressive showings from James Ward-Prowse and Ben White in England’s victory.
He told Sky Sports: “We’ve got a decision to make on what’s the best positional cover – all six players have done themselves the world of good.
“Absolutely they’re all in the frame, we’re very pleased with their reaction to the disappointment of being left out, we’ve just got to look at the squad in its entirety and make sure we haven’t got any injuries from today – and make a decision positionally as much as anything else.”
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