England 2, Belgium 1 (Nations League Group E)
Marcus Rashford and Mason Mount scored the goals as England overhauled an early setback to beat Belgium 2-1 in the Nations League.Embed from Getty Images
It was a tale of two penalties for England as they managed to equalise from the penalty spot through Marcus Rashford after Romelu Lukaku had opened the scoring for the world number 1 side who lacked end product despite dominating the first half.
Roberto Martinez’ side had a goal ruled out for offside and should have scored more in a tricky first half for England before Jordan Henderson won a penalty that allowed Rashford to equalise from the soft penalty.
Gareth Southgate tightened up his England team after the break, frustrating their visitors who could no longer find Lukaku at will, and Mount’s fluke goal then put the home side into an unexpected lead.
It was a lead they managed to hold on after a second half improvement, despite some wobbly moments, to inflict only a second defeat on Belgium in their last 20 competitive games.
Only Kieran Trippier and Dominic Calvert-Lewin had remained from the side that beat Wales on Thursday as Gareth Southgate made the expected changes to face the world number one team Belgium.
Harry Maguire was making his first appearance for England since November last year in a three man England back line alongside Kyle Walker and Eric Dier as Gareth Southgate matched Belgium’s tactics.
Marcus Rashford started after celebrating having been named an MBE in the Queens Birthday Honours list.
Ben Chilwell was left out ill with a non-COVID related illness while Harry Kane was rested on the bench after his recent exertions with Spurs.
Belgium lined up with four players with Manchester links – Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City plus Dedryck Boyata and Jason Deneyer – former City players – and Romelu Lukaku formerly of Manchester United.
And Lukaku proved a handful for England’s defence when he headed wide after Timothy Castagne’s cross found him in the 9th minute – a first warning sign as England struggled to contain Belgium who attacked down the flanks.
Yannick Carrasco thought he had scored a minute later after he dummied Eric Dier and slotted home from Thomas Meunier’s cross but Jordan Pickford’s view was obscured by Castagne who came into his eyeline at the last moment.
Romelu Lukaku gives Belgium the lead from the penalty spot but fail to make England pay for a difficult first half
But Belgium soon took the lead after Lukaku was felled after 15 minutes when a clumsy tackle by Dier took out the Belgian as they both raced into the area.
The Belgian put away the 56th goal of his Belgium career from the penalty spot with a firm strike into the bottom right hand corner.
De Bruyne’s shot was saved by Pickford after Rashford gave the ball away.
Dier only half cleared from Lukaku as Belgium continued to attack, leaving his team mates to try and clear the constant threat from their visitors who had put a slow start completely behind them but never quite put England under the cosh.
England’s set pieces were poor, they wasted three corners before a fourth drew a penalty in the box when Meunier brought down Jordan Henderson with a hand on his shoulder.
Marcus Rashford stepped up and rapped in the equaliser from the spot into the left side of the net for his 11th international goal.
Carrasco dragged a shot well wide after a horrendous defensive block by Rice on Lukaku saw the ball break to the striker who was clean through just before half time.
And De Bruyne’s cross in the area was cleared by Dier as Belgium pushed for a second goal.
Calvert-Lewin blazed over after Rashford checked back and laid the ball off for the Everton man when he ran into traffic early after the break despite some half time tactical tweaks by Southgate.
England successfully blocked the up the channels to Lukaku and forced De Bruyne into dead ends, but couldn’t create their own chances going forward.
Mason Mount scores his first goal at Wembley to beat Belgium in the Nations League
And it needed a huge stroke of luck for Mount to put England in front with his first England goal at Wembley.
Mount’s 64th minute shot took a wicked deflection off Toby Alderweireld to loop in over Simon Mignolet’s head after Trippier headed Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross to the edge of the box to find the Chelsea man in space for his second England goal.
England threw on Harry Kane and Kavin Phillips for Calvert-Lewin and Henderson – they had been waiting to come on since before Mount’s goal.
De Bruyne found Carrasco with a sumptuous pass which the striker put wide of the back post with Pickford rushing out to force the move before the City midfielder was taken off after signalling to come off.
And even without their main creative source Belgium kept England on their toes.
Lukaku was crowded out as he looked to break through with Walker helping out Dier with his recovery pace after a lapse in concentration from the Spurs man.
Reece James, who was a late call up into the senior squad, made his England senior debut in the 79th minute for Alexander-Arnold and England wasted two chances to put the game to bed.
Kane nodded wide of the back post with a free header from Trippier’s corner as England continued to pose a threat on set pieces.
And Declan Rice put Rashford through with a square pass for a shot that the United striker swept over the bar late on.
Jadon Sancho replaced Mount as England saw out a big win to top Nations League group E.
GOALS – England 2, Belgium 1 (Nations League Group E)
England 0, Belgium 1: 16. Romelu Lukaku scored from the penalty spot after he was brought down by a clumsy challenge by Eric Dier.
England 1, Belgium 1: 39. Marcus Rashford fired in the equaliser from the penalty spot, into the left side of the Belgium net after Thomas Meunier was adjudged to have bought down Jordan Henderson as England tried to put in a corner.
England 2, Belgium 1: 64. Mason Mount’s shot from just inside the box took a wicked deflection to loop over Simon Mignolet after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross was knocked back into the area for him by Kieran Trippier.
MATCH STATS – England 2, Belgium 1 (Nations League Group E)
England: Pickford, Walker, Maguire, Dier, Alexander-Arnold (James 79), Jordan Henderson (Phillips 67), Rice, Trippier, Mount (Sancho 89), Rashford, Calvert-Lewin (Kane 67)
England subs not used: Dean Henderson, Pope, Mings, Coady, Maitland-Niles, Ward-Prowse, Grealish, Ings
Booking: Rice 32 (foul on Axel Witsel)
Goals: Rashford 39 pen; Mount 64
Belgium: Mignolet, Alderweireld, Denayer, Boyata, Meunier, Tielemens, Witsel, Castagne, De Bruyne (Verschaeren 73), Carrasco (Doku 83), Lukaku
Belgium subs not used: Roef, Kayembe, Trossard, Kaminski, Vanaken, Dendoncker, Origi, Benteke, Mechele, Batshuayi
Booking: Meunier 38 (pulling down Jordan Henderson as both went for an England corner)
Goal: Lukaku 16 pen
Referee: Tobias Stieler