England’s hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Nations League finals were ended as Gareth Southgate’s side suffered a 2-0 defeat to Belgium.

The Three Lions knew they would likely have to claim all three points against the number one ranked team in international football to keep alive their chances of finishing top of League A Group 2, but such an outcome was beyond them.

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It took Belgium just 10 minutes to take the lead, with the hosts pouncing on a loose pass by Eric Dier. Romelu Lukaku fed Youri Tielemens and the Leicester City midfielder found the back of the net via a deflection and the inside of the post.

Dries Mertens doubled Belgium’s lead in spectacular style, although there was some doubt over the award of the free-kick which the Napoli attacker whipped past Jordan Pickford.

Southgate introduced Harry Winks for Jordan Henderson at half-time in an attempt to change the dynamic of the match, with England taking more control of the contest as a result. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jadon Sancho were also thrown on, but Belgian had little trouble seeing out the game.

The result leaves England third in UEFA Nations League League A Group 2 on seven points, five points off Belgium and three off Denmark, with just one last fixture against Iceland left to play on Wednesday.

TALKING POINT

Has Jack Grealish finally done enough to convince Gareth Southgate? A lot has been said and written about Southgate’s stance on Jack Grealish, with many of the belief the Aston Villa man should be one of England’s first names on the team sheet right now. Well, Grealish was given a chance from the start to make an impression this evening and that’s exactly what he did. He was the best player on the pitch in white. The majority of England’s best chances came through Grealish and his creativity.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Youri Tielemens (Belgium): It was the Leicester City midfielder’s strike from distance that got Belgium off to the best possible start after 10 minutes and Tielemens was impressive throughout for the hosts. Even when the dynamic changed at half time, with Belgium required to do more defending, Tielemens was important in the way he protected the defenders behind him. This was a performance which demonstrated both sides of the 23-year-old’s game.

Belgium celebrate Youri Tielemans' (R) opener

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

Belgium: Courtois 7, Alderweireld 7, Denayer 8, Vertonghen 7, Meunier 6, Witsel 6, Tielemens 8, De Bruyne 6, T. Hazard 6, Mertens 7, Lukaku 8. Subs: Praet 5.

England: Pickford 6, Walker 5, Trippier 6, Dier 5, Mings 7, Chilwell 4, Rice 5, Henderson 5, Mount 6, Grealish 8, Kane 6. Subs: Saka 5, Winks 6, Sancho 4, Calvert-Lewin 4.

KEY MOMENTS

10’ GOAL! Belgium 1-0 England (Tielemens). It's an early goal for Belgium and it's Tielemens who finds the back of the net! Dier gave the ball away cheaply, Lukaku fed the ball to Tielemens and the Leicester City midfielder lashed home from outside the box, via a deflection and the inside of the post.

12’ Cleared off the line! Kane got on the end of the corner kick delivery into the box, he beat Courtois with his powerful header, but Lukaku was on the line to make the clearance. Big moment.

24’ GOAL! Belgium 2-0 England (Mertens). What a wonderful free-kick! Belgium have a two-goal lead in this first half! De Bruyne won a controversial free-kick 20 yards out, despite Rice appearing to win the ball, and Mertens sends his set piece effort into the back of the net. Brilliant strike!

KEY STATS

  • Dries Mertens has been directly involved in four goals in three UEFA Nations League games for Belgium this season.
  • England conceded two goals from outside the box in a game for the first time since June 2017 (against Scotland).
  • England have lost back-to-back competitive games for the first time since losing three in a row from July to September 2018.
  • England named five right backs to squad and ended up with Sancho playing there
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