North Macedonia 1-1 England: Gareth Southgate ‘learns a lot’ from Three Lions games

England manager Gareth Southgate believes “he has learned a lot” despite his side finishing their European Championship qualifying campaign unbeaten with a disappointing draw at North Macedonia.

Already-qualified England got the point they needed to secure a top seeding at Euro 2024 in Skopje, but were unable to improve on their underwhelming performance in Friday’s 2-0 win over Malta.

“I think in both matches we’ve been able to look at different players as well as trying to win,” Southgate told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Normally you’re waiting until March to do that. We’ve learned quite a bit from those two games which is an advantage for us.”

The hosts were awarded a controversial penalty at the end of the first half when England debutant Rico Lewis caught striker Bojan Miovski with his hand as he jumped up for a header.

North Macedonia captain Enis Bardhi put his side ahead from the rebound after his spot-kick was saved by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

England equalised in the 59th minute when Phil Foden’s corner deflected in off Macedonian Jani Atanasov under pressure from Harry Kane.

The point sealed England’s place in pot one for the draw for next summer’s European Championship in Germany as one of the top five group winners, with 20 points from eight qualifying matches.

‘Two flat games to finish’

England were routinely frustrated in Skopje against a North Macedonia side who were hammered 7-0 by the Three Lions at Old Trafford in June.

Former England goalkeeper Rob Green dubbed their performance “rushed, hurried” and without “quality”.

“In the end, two flat games to finish the campaign with,” Green told BBC Radio 5 Live. “They got the equaliser and then North Macedonia caused problems and England caused more of their own.”

Southgate’s team had made a promising start. Declan Rice hit the post with a driven shot from the edge of the box in the 14th minute before Ollie Watkins sent a free header wide seconds later.

Midway through the first half Harry Maguire was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he nudged over Elif Elmas in the box. The penalty England did concede on the stroke of half-time though was harsh on the visitors.

Slovakian referee Filip Glova had initially waved play on when Lewis caught Aberdeen striker Miovski, but awarded the hosts a spot-kick after consulting the pitch-side monitor.

Seconds into the second half England had a goal ruled out for offside after Jack Grealish had timed his run too early before he bundled in Bukayo Saka’s cross.

Their leveller eventually came just before the hour mark when substitute Kane did enough to panic defender Atanasov into deflecting Foden’s corner into his own net.

England looked the likelier to grab a late winner but, just as they did for most of the game, struggled to break down their opponent’s low block.

“Of course we would have liked to have racked the goals up, but North Macedonia have been pretty good here,” said Southgate. “They drew with Italy, they make life tough.”

Lewis ‘excellent’ despite conceding penalty

One positive for Southgate was teenager Lewis who became England’s 20th youngest player, making his debut a day before his 19th birthday.

The versatile Manchester City player made his club debut less than 12 months ago, but has also impressed for Pep Guardiola’s side this campaign in defence and midfield.

He looked lively from left-back at Tose Proeski Arena, firing a shot over the bar inside the first three minutes.

After conceding a penalty and collecting a yellow card for his foul, he forced Macedonian keeper Stole Dimitrievski into a fine diving save just before the break.

“I thought he was excellent,” added Southgate. “His ability to receive in tight areas was a standout. His bravery with the ball, but also the resilience to come back from a bit of a setback that was no fault of his own.

“He’s a unique player because working out the specifics of the role and where that all fits is really interesting. His ability to keep possession and do that well under pressure is a fabulous asset to have.”

Kyle Walker also became the 126th player to captain England, filling in for Kane until the Bayern Munich forward came on in the second half.

England end their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign unbeaten and next face Brazil and Belgium in friendlies in March.

Player of the match

AlioskiEzgjan Alioski

with an average of 6.01

North Macedonia


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