Nations League: Mason Mount winner sees England topple top-ranked Belgium

Chelsea midfielder's deflected effort came after Marcus Rashford had cancelled out Romelu Lukaku's early penalty as England win 2-1 at Wembley

England's midfielder Jordan Henderson (L) and England's defender Kieran Trippier (R) congratulate goalscorer England's midfielder Mason Mount during the UEFA Nations League group A2 football match between England and Belgium at Wembley stadium in north London on October 11, 2020. 
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England are not the world’s best, but they beat the team who officially hold that status and now find themselves in pole position to take on Europe’s finest again.

Defeating Belgium, who have topped Fifa’s rankings for the past two years, may have brought England a modicum of revenge for two defeats to Roberto Martinez’s men at the World Cup. It puts them top of Group A2 in the Nations League and on course to reach a second successive semi-final in the tournament.

The result was better than the first-half performance but England, who beat Spain and Croatia in the inaugural Nations League, came from behind to claim another notable scalp as Belgium lost for only the third time in 46 matches. They did so in a game of two penalties, with Marcus Rashford cancelling out Romelu Lukaku’s spot kick, and that was decided by Mason Mount’s deflected goal.

If the Chelsea midfielder had not always excelled on the right of Gareth Southgate’s front three, he did emerge victorious. In that respect, he epitomised his side. Mount scored after wandering over to the left and England found a way to win despite Belgium’s superiority for much of the first half. The jury is still out on Southgate’s 3-4-3 system, but England prevailed without Raheem Sterling while Harry Kane was confined to a cameo in which, uncharacteristically, he missed a golden chance.

Belgium were without Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Jan Vertonghen. They showed they still possessed two champion players in Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne. The Inter Milan forward’s goal capped his terrific display as the focal point of the attack, showing the pace to run in behind England’s defence, the physicality to hold the ball up and the invention to release Yannick Carrasco with a lovely flick. The winger’s wayward finish was altogether less impressive.

Carrasco also denied De Bruyne an assist, angling a second effort wide when the Manchester City midfielder’s wonderful pass seemed to have set up an equaliser. It was a day of near misses for him – Carrasco appeared to have drilled Belgium ahead with a clinical finish, only for the goal to be chalked off. His supplier, Thomas Meunier, had been offside seconds earlier, but perhaps Timothy Castagne was deemed offside when he obstructed Jordan Pickford’s view.

Yet England’s reprieve was only temporary. A sliding Eric Dier brought down Lukaku and Belgium’s record scorer converted the penalty. England had kept six successive clean sheets but, a year to the day since they had conceded, it was unsurprising they were breached again.

Initially they were subdued as they struggled to contain De Bruyne, who highlighted the lack of creativity in England’s ranks. But Southgate’s side have often prospered at set-pieces and they did again as they scored from their first shot on target.

Meunier tugged at a theatrical Jordan Henderson as a corner came in and, without Kane, Rashford scored from the spot for his fourth goal in as many internationals to shift the balance of power.

England emerged thereafter with greater solidity and purpose. Rashford produced a couple of bright bursts and almost scored a late third. Dominic Calvert-Lewin had few chances to claim a second international goal, but Mount got his.

Two of the three right-backs in England’s starting XI combined, Trent Alexander-Arnold delivering a deep cross that Kieran Trippier headed back to Mount. The Chelsea midfielder’s shot looped up off Toby Alderweireld and over the luckless Mignolet. It was scarcely as stylish as David Platt’s volley against Belgium in the 1990 World Cup, but they both go down as winners.

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