Faultless Dunk makes big impression
Is Harry Maguire’s time up as an automatic starter under Gareth Southgate? It should be. As Southgate referenced, he’s been a colossus at times for his country but his time looks up as first-choice.
Not because of the unfortunate yet sloppy own goal that almost changed the complexion of what was an impressive night for England but because of the man playing alongside him in the second half. It was Lewis Dunk that looked like the international standard defender – on just his second appearance.
His development at Brighton, first under Graham Potter and then Roberto De Zerbi has been remarkable. He was always regarded as a bit of a bruising centre-back, great at defending his box and not much else. But look at him now, starring on the big stage, looking like he’s been playing there for 10 years.
Comfortable with the ball and progressive with his passing to the extent that no player in the Premier League made more successful passes than him last season, he transferred his Brighton form to the international stage.
His passing was brave and crisp under pressure but it was the bread and butter defending that made him stand out, the 31-year-old making two very important headed clearances in the first half before denying Aaron Hickey with a perfectly timed and brave block on 65 minutes.
He has given Southgate a massive headache. He simply can’t be dropped after a faultless display in a fiercely competitive environment. This wasn’t Gibraltar at home. Opportunity taken. Dunk deserves to keep the shirt.
Bellingham is so good – even Scotland like him!
There was polite applause around Hampden Park for Jude Bellingham as he came off the pitch.
Applause. For an England player. From a Scotland home crowd. That is how good he was.
With a goal and a sublime assist, Bellingham showed he is in a class of his own. He was the best player on the pitch all night.
For his assist, his electric pace, beating too Scotland defenders and precise through-ball which picked out Harry Kane was calmness personified.
A reminder of what’s to come for Scotland
Top of their European Championship group with five wins from five and facing an England team who drew with Ukraine on Saturday, Steve Clarke spoke pre-match about the desire to see how much his team had narrowed the gap on their rivals.
But they failed to impress in front of an expectant Tartan Army as England showed them the kind of test they will surely face in Germany next summer.
Their place at Euro 2024 is close to secured with recent wins over Norway and Spain giving the Scots belief that they can make an impression on the big stage.
Scotland are on the up, no one can deny that, but Jude Bellingham’s inspired display saw England retain the bragging rights for now.
Foden provides vindication for Southgate
There was a wry smile from Gareth Southgate when he was asked about Phil Foden’s performance after the game. “I’m pleased for him as much as anything,” he said. But after all the debate around his best position, there was vindication for the manager too.
Southgate, following his comments questioning Foden’s suitability to playing centrally in the lead-up to the game, deployed the 23-year-old where he sees him as most effective – off the right-hand side. From there, he produced one of his best England performances.
As always, he had licence to drift into central areas, just as he did for his goal, when nimble footwork allowed him to divert Kyle Walker’s cross-shot into the net. But he also inflicted damage from the flanks, most notably with the wicked cross that led to the second.
Southgate had explained that his preference for using him off the flanks was partly due to the defensive demands of the No 10 position, so it was also notable to hear him praise his work in that regard. “He did a really good job for us without the ball,” he said.
Perhaps there is a future for Foden centrally, after all. For now, though, there seems little reason to move him. Not when he can perform like this from the right – and not when England already have Bellingham rampaging through the middle to such devastating effect.