LONDON: England came from behind to earn a battling 2-1 win over Belgium, the top-ranked side in the world, in the Nations League at Wembley.
Romelu Lukaku fired home a first-half penalty to give Belgium a deserved lead as they threatened to put England to the sword, but Marcus Rashford levelled from the spot to send the teams in at 1-1 and celebrate his MBE in style.
Gareth Southgate’s selections may well have been questioned with three right backs on the field and defenders playing in an unfamiliar three-man defence that looked all at sea in the first 45 minutes.
The Three Lions looked much better after the break though and Mason Mount settled a much more even contest with a deflected effort to give the hosts a valuable three points in their Nations League campaign.
Belgium were much the better side in the first half and only an offside call kept England level after Yannick Carrasco had rifled past Jordan Pickford in the 11th minute.
Belgium were awarded a penalty in the 15th minute after Eric Dier’s clumsy sliding challenge brought down Lukaku in the box and the Inter Milan striker sent Pickford the wrong way with a thumping effort from the resulting penalty.
The Red Devils missed a few chances to double their lead, and the were made to pay before half-time as referee Tobias Stieler pointed to the spot in the 38th minute, when Meunier was adjudged to have hauled down Jordan Henderson when trying to meet a corner.
Rashford fired the spot-kick into the top left-hand corner and it was the fourth straight competitive England match that the Manchester United forward had scored in and meant the hosts somehow went in at the break with the score level at 1-1.
England improved after the break but it was still a shock to see them take the lead in the 64th minute, with Mount’s strike taking a giant deflection off Toby Alderweireld and looping over Simon Mignolet.
Rashford also missed a big chance to finish the game off but England held on for what was a huge victory for them against the world’s top-ranked side.
In other matches . . . France drew 0-0 at home to Portugal in the UEFA Nations League in a cagey clash between the world and European champions while Italy coach Roberto Mancini fumed over the state of the pitch after his team were held to a 0-0 draw away to Poland.
Croatia celebrated their first Nations League top-tier Group 3 win after a late goal by substitute Andrej Kramaric gave them a 2-1 home win over Sweden.
** Inter Milan’s Ashley Young has tested positive for COVID-19, the Serie A club said on Sunday, becoming the sixth member of their squad to be infected in the last week.