Belfast Telegraph

Hard work allowed me to get it spot on: Pickford

Switzerland 0 England 0

Main man: Jordan Pickford is congratulated by Fabian Delph after England’s shoot-out win
Main man: Jordan Pickford is congratulated by Fabian Delph after England’s shoot-out win

By Paul Burrows

Jordan Pickford admitted to feeling nervous when he stepped up to take a penalty in England's shoot-out win over Switzerland.

The Guimaraes contest went to spot-kicks after a goalless 120 minutes and Pickford again came into his own, denying Josip Drmic in sudden death after scoring his own effort in emphatic fashion as the Three Lions won 6-5 on penalties.

The victory secured third place in the Nations League and afterwards Everton goalkeeper Pickford said: "It was a very tough game. We showed character and belief again. Sometimes it's hard to get up for a game like this, but it shows us where we want to go and how we get better as a team and bounce back.

"We always say, 'Do what it takes to win a game', and I was a bit nervous taking my penalty -but I'm not nervous saving them.

"We practice them when there's a major competition or the Nations League. I picked my spot and I always seem to be able to get a goal, but I've never taken one in a real game, so I was a bit nervous. It's what you practice for, to make sure you make it easier on the day."

Pickford sent Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer the wrong way with a confident finish and the England man added: "It's all about routine. You watch the top penalty takers, and Harry Kane's got his own routine, so you've got to create your own routine to make sure everything's done to perfection."

England should have had the match wrapped up long before the shoot-out, though, with the Swiss goal frame rattled four times across the 120 minutes.

Gareth Southgate's men even thought they had snatched an 84th-minute winner through Callum Wilson, only for VAR to spot his foul on Manuel Akanji.

It meant an extra 30 minutes of the match no one wanted and eventually penalties, with Pickford emulating his last-16 heroics against Colombia at last year's World Cup.

It brought a welcome buzz at the end of a drab match that saw seven Southgate changes, with John Stones among those going out as Kane returned.

Less than two minutes were on the clock when the 25-year-old tried a chipped attempt from an acute angle, with goalkeeper Sommer able to tip onto the bar.

Kane's unsettling presence saw Fabian Schar stretch to prevent him reaching a Danny Rose cross, only for the defender to turn the ball onto the far post.

There finally seemed to be a breakthrough in the 84th minute. Dele Alli met a Raheem Sterling cross with a header that crashed back off the frame of the goal and Wilson reacted quickest to fire home from close range.

Relief and joy soon became frustration as VAR would again rule out a late England winner.

Sterling then whacked the crossbar with a 20-yard free-kick in extra-time. It was the last chance and it went to penalties.

Harry Maguire and Ross Barkley scored their spot-kicks, as did Jadon Sancho and Sterling despite Sommer going the right way. Pickford took off his gloves to fire a spot-kick of his own home, but he was unable to stop any of the first five Swiss efforts as it went to sudden death.

Eric Dier struck home the first before Drmic was denied, with Pickford diving to his right to seal victory.

AET, England win 6-5 on penalties

SWITZERLAND: Sommer, Schar, Akanji, Elvedi, Mbabu, Xhaka, Freuler, Rodriguez (Drmic, 87 mins), Shaqiri (Zuber, 65 mins), Seferovic (Okafor, 113 mins), Fernandes (Zakaria, 60 mins). Unused subs: Mvogo, Moubandje, Lang, Steffen, Benito, Ajeti, Sow, Omlin.

England: Pickford, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Maguire, Rose (Walker, 70 mins), Dier, Delph (Barkley, 106 mins), Lingard (Sancho, 106 mins), Alli, Sterling, Kane (Wilson, 75 mins). Unused subs: Butland, Stones, Henderson, Chilwell, Keane, Rice, Rashford, Heaton.

Referee: Ovidiu Alin Hategan (Romania)

Player of the match: Alexander-Arnold

Match rating: 6/10

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