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Southgate rocket did the trick: Harry Maguire

England 1 Switzerland 0


Goal ace: Marcus Rashford after scoring England’s winner

Goal ace: Marcus Rashford after scoring England’s winner

Goal ace: Marcus Rashford after scoring England’s winner

Marcus Rashford's eye for goal helped England see off Switzerland with a victory that ensured the enthusiasm of a World Cup semi-final run did not descend into a record losing streak.

The feelgood factor Gareth Southgate earned in Russia this summer was dented but not ruined by Saturday's Nations League loss to Spain, and a 1-0 friendly win at Leicester's King Power Stadium ensured his Three Lions could end their reunion with a smile.

Rashford made it two goals in two games, and five for his country, with a close-range finish after 54 minutes, but Southgate's relief at averting the unwanted history of a fourth successive defeat will be tempered. England failed to dominate possession against a mid-ranking visitor, coughed up soft chances and, in the presence of the watching Paul Gascoigne, conjured little of the creative spark required to drive them to fresh heights.

"There were a few words spoken between the boys at half time, the pressing was bits and bobs, the gaffer had stern words with us," admitted defender Harry Maguire.

"We struggled early on in the game but we want to be confident in playing from the back and we did it better in the second half. We do not want to give chances and goals away.

"The atmosphere here was brilliant all night and the crowd were chanting my name so it gives you a boost. It is nice to get a victory. We had to stop the rot after three straight defeats and kept a clean sheet too."

As promised there were widespread changes, with Foxes favourite Maguire and Rashford the only survivors from the Spain game at Wembley, but none of the newcomers thrust themselves to the fore.

It did not help that some of those drafted to the cause have been bystanders in the Premier League this season, but against more clinical opponents, England would surely have been staring at a half-time deficit.

England made some early running, with Fabian Delph and Danny Rose combining well for a neat sortie down the left flank, an enthusiasm that was punctured by some slack work at the back.

Goalkeeper Jack Butland, deputising for Jordan Pickford, was the guilty party as he went about reinforcing the latter's reputation as a superior ball-player.

Having collected a back-pass, he turned and inexplicably side-footed the ball across the face of his own goal.

He was spared a calamitous own goal but was in the spotlight again moments later, offering James Tarkowski an ill-judged short pass that the Burnley man allowed to run straight into the path of Mario Gavranovic.

He quickly found Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri, who reeled off a first-time shot which had the beating of keeper Butland but struck the base of the post.

Having waited 15 years for the national side to visit, the fans remained supportive and earned their reward nine minutes after the interval.

For the second time in four days it was Rashford who broke the deadlock, lurking in the six-yard box and volleying home after Kyle Walker recycled an overhit corner into a hanging cross.

Switzerland had plentiful territory but could not convert it into serious pressure, allowing the hosts to hang on to a first success since their quarter-final win over Sweden in Samara.

Southgate's journey will surely take him to Euro 2020, but how many of those on duty here make it with him is an open question.

Belfast Telegraph

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