Southgate praises Lewis despite conceding penalty on England debut
Harry Kane took just 40 seconds to stop birthday party poopers North Macedonia from completely ruining Rico Lewis’s big night for England. The Manchester City defender, making his full debut on the eve of his 19th birthday, was named man of the match after the 1-1 draw in Skopje.
That despite conceding the harsh penalty that had threatened England with their first defeat since the World Cup. And with Gareth Southgate’s much-changed team struggling to get back into the game, Kane came on in the second half and pressurised an own goal equaliser with his very first involvement in the game.
“It was good to get on the pitch, I’m always trying to help the team whether it is 90 minutes or 10 minutes,” Kane said. “It was important for us to get a goal back and a shame we couldn’t get a second.
“We were playing against a team that people expected us to beat five or six nil, but they did a job on Italy in the World Cup qualifiers to knock them out. We can be really proud of how the qualifying campaign has gone.”
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He added that Lewis could be “proud” of his debut and predicted a return to the senior set-up in 2024 while his manager was more worried he hadn’t realised it was his birthday. “Is it his birthday tomorrow? I’m sure we’ve got him something,” he laughed.
“He was excellent, his composure with the ball, the fact that he did respond to that set-back with the penalty, which was really, really harsh. I know sometimes as a player you might feel you need to bounce back.
“But we thought there was no crime. We were pleased with everything he did. He is a super footballer.” At least England’s unbeaten 2023 remained intact.
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Southgate added: “I thought the performance was good. Mentality was excellent, I thought we played well. We totally controlled the game. It was difficult with the way they defended and the pitch not easy to make the perfect final pass.
“But I thought there were some excellent performances within the game. The really big results were in March, winning in Italy and the result against Ukraine. It meant coming here tonight was a different test, given we’ve qualified and everything was achieved.
“The mentality of the players was excellent, the quality with the ball was good on a very difficult pitch and a lot of positive performances.”
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