WARSAW (Reuters) – England manager Gareth Southgate defended his decision not to use any substitutes in the 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw against Poland on Wednesday.
The Poles used all five of their substitutes during the game and ended strongly, grabbing their equaliser in stoppage time.
“We were playing well, we were in control. At those moments, it’s not easy to come on as a substitute and we would be taking people off for the sake of it, frankly,” said Southgate.
“We were in total control, there was no issue, why disrupt it when you’re in control?” he said.
The result ended England’s 100% record in group I after five straight wins but still leaves the Three Lions four points clear of second placed Albania and five ahead of Poland.
Southgate said Wednesday’s game had been the hardest test his side had faced since losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties in July.
“It was no surprise that this was the hardest game in the group. Early in the game, we were a little slow to move the ball and Poland pressed us well.
“As the half wore on we started to get a grip of the game and gain more control without making really any clear chances – other than Harry Kane’s header at the far post.
“In the second half we controlled the game. If there’s a criticism it’s that we didn’t create enough clear chances from that possession and we didn’t get enough players in the box,” he said.
England showed little desire to add to their one-goal lead and paid the price but Southgate said the result had to be put in the context of a three-game span which saw 4-0 wins in Hungary and at home to Andorra.
“While it’s one-nil you run the risk of what happened at the end. We’re clearly disappointed not to get the three points but I have to look at what the players have done across these three matches,” Southgate said.
“Given that there was no way of telling how they would react after what happened in the (Euro 2020 final), I think their mentality and application has been really good.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)