Mason Mount’s deflected strike earned England a 2-1 Nations League victory over a Belgium side who suffered defeat for the first time in almost two years.
Belgium beat England twice at the 2018 World Cup and were ahead after 15 minutes at Wembley through Romelu Lukaku’s penalty, awarded when the Inter forward was brought down by Eric Dier.
It was the first goal Gareth Southgate’s side had conceded in a year but they drew level before the interval, Thomas Meunier conceding a soft spot-kick from which Marcus Rashford scored.
Having spent much of the first half on the back foot, England looked reinvigorated for the second period and got their reward when Mount’s shot looped off Toby Alderweireld and beyond Simon Mignolet’s reach, as the world’s top-ranked footballing nation were beaten for the first time since November 2018.
Yannick Carrasco lashed home what appeared to be an 11th-minute opener, but Timothy Castagne was adjudged offside in a position that was obstructing the view of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The hosts were looking to keep a seventh consecutive clean sheet, which would have constituted an England record, but those hopes were scuppered when Dier felled Lukaku in the box and the forward picked himself up to convert the spot-kick.
Lukaku produced a dominant display that summed up Belgium’s early control of the contest, with England struggling to get a foot on the ball or lay a finger on the former Manchester United star.
But Southgate’s side were handed a route back into the match when Jordan Henderson went down under minimal contact from Meunier and Rashford confidently fired home from 12 yards.
Belgium saw a 12-game winning run halted with Thursday’s 1-1 draw versus Ivory Coast, while England were seeking a 20th win from 21 home matches, ensuring neither side was likely to willingly budge an inch in the second half.
It was England who started the period with a greater purpose but it took until the 64th minute for the next goal to arrive, Mount’s shot ricocheting off Alderweireld and over Mignolet.
Roberto Martinez’s men tried to force the issue inside the final 20 minutes, with Carrasco stabbing narrowly wide and Lukaku thwarted soon after, while substitute Harry Kane missed an excellent headed chance at the other end.
What does it mean? England grind it out
On paper, England’s starting line-up appeared to lack a creative edge and that was borne out in a first-half display in which the hosts produced just two shots.
But the Three Lions stuck at their task, stayed in the contest and ensured their organisation and rigid shape were strengths rather than hindrances.
Belgium’s own creative talents failed to create a goal from open play, which will be a source of huge pride for Southgate, whose side top Group A2.
Mason Mount’s spirited recovery
Chelsea midfielder Mount was a peripheral figure in the first half, but his display mirrored that of the wider England team.
He grew in confidence after the break and went on to get the winner, but perhaps more impressively he compared favourably with Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne.
His pass success of 77.8 per cent was better than the Manchester City star managed (77 per cent), and his accuracy in the final third was far better – with 75 per cent versus De Bruyne’s 64.
Maguire back in the fold
Putting off-field matters to one side, and even shrugging off Manchester United’s woes, Harry Maguire returned to England’s defence with an assured outing.
He recorded the highest total of passes (85) and passes completed (81) of all England’s players, adding four recoveries to boot.
England host Denmark on Wednesday, having been held to a 0-0 draw in Copenhagen, while Belgium head to Iceland after thrashing the same opposition 5-1 on home soil.
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