England led through a Marcus Rashford penalty but lost 3-1 after extra time in the Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands
It was an ignominious way for England to lose and a reminder, perhaps, that no matter the scale of improvement under Gareth Southgate it is still easy sometimes to slip into bad old habits – in this case a valiant attempt to be recognised as international football’s Slapstick XI once the game had gone into extra time.
If that sounds slightly harsh, how else could that traumatic half an hour be analysed when two of the goals scored by the Netherlands came from the kind of defensive howlers that show Southgate’s team are still getting to grips with the modern era of knocking the ball around their own penalty area?
It might look good when it comes off. Not so much, though, when Ross Barkley has his face down in the turf, not wanting to look up and survey the damage after his mistake for the third Dutch goal. Or when Jordan Pickford is screaming at John Stones, another one wandering round with the look of a zombie, for the fairly dreadful error that began the capitulation.
For Stones, this was a personal ordeal in keeping with a season on the fringes of Manchester City’s success. The records will show it was Kyle Walker’s own goal that put the Netherlands in front. In reality it was Stones who endangered his team, dilly-dallying on the ball with Memphis Depay in close proximity, losing possession and watching the rest unfurl without being able to do anything about it.
It was difficult to know which was the more calamitous goal and, unfortunately for Stones, he had a part in both. It was Stones, after all, who played the pass that put Barkley under pressure and saw him, as the last man, lose the ball to Depay again. Quincy Promes, one of the Dutch substitutes, was waiting to turn in Depay’s pass to make it 3-1 and that, for England, was that – another semi-final defeat and another story of squandering a first-half lead, just as they had done against Croatia during last summer’s World Cup.
Read more: www.theguardian.com