England's most attacking XI in years falls flat in Hungary draw as Southgate faces rethink

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    It was the night England manager Gareth Southgate finally filled his toolbox with all the nation’s favourite picks. And still Hungary’s defence remained locked frustratingly tight.

    Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount all got a start alongside Harry Kane in England’s most adventurous line-up for years.

    But for all the oohs and aahs of an enthusiastic home crowd, England could only manage a set-piece goal in response to an early Hungary penalty.

    Although some of the touches shown by Foden and Grealish in particular did little to diminish the passion of England fans to let the “ballers” hold a bit more sway.

    Grealish’s back-heel to Luke Shaw on the overlap in the sixth minute set the tone and in different form Harry Kane’s toe would have put England in front at the far post.

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    Even the prospect of being surrounded by Manchester City and given a taste of what might have been failed to lift the England captain out of the doldrums, however, and for this reason alone England did not get some of the reward their enterprising play deserved.

    Grealish and Foden were lifting the Wembley crowd with their trickery – even if much of it came to little.

    But Hungary’s more prosaic approach was a reminder that naked opportunism and a bit of directness is all the magic you need.

    Shaw was certainly not expecting Loic Nego to put his head in as he cleared a high ball and his dangerous kick conceded a rather unnecessary penalty, which Roland Sallai duly dispatched.

    England need the test of a bit of adversity in these qualifying games and pleasingly they responded by sticking to the game plan and moving up a gear.

    The lead lasted 13 minutes before yet another free-kick earned by Grealish was whipped in by Foden, brushed Declan Rice’s back and was hammered home by John Stones at the far post.

    England could even have taken a lead into the interval – another Shaw cross finding Raheem Sterling – but the Manchester City winger’s sharp header was well saved by Peter Gulacsi at his near post.

    Hungary continued to push on in the second half and one of the problem of this England approach is how easily opponents can march through the midfield and get the back four scampering nervously backwards. But they held.

    At the other end, Kane sparked into life briefly to slide the perfect pass into the path of Sterling but neither seemed capable of using this game to play themselves into form.

    A poor miss from Kane would have been ruled out for offside if it had gone in and an incredible run of 15 consecutive qualifiers in which he had scored came to an end when he was replaced by Tammy Abraham in search of a goal.

    Sterling joined him on the trudge to the tunnel with Henderson brought on to end the experimenting for now.

    All too soon we were back to old England, paper aeroplanes and all.

    If anything, better finishing from Filip Holender might have nicked the win for the visitors when Bukayo Saka disastrously lost possession on the edge of his own area.

    As it is, England will still finish top of the group if they beat Albania in their next game here next month.

    But maybe that dream of an all-conquering team of attacking youngsters heading to the desert in Qatar next November might have to take something of a rain check.



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