PRAGUE (Reuters) - England suffered their first tournament qualifying defeat for 10 years when they lost 2-1 away to the Czech Republic in their Euro 2020 qualifying Group A clash on Friday.
It was a fully deserved win for the Czechs. They played with verve and determination against a sluggish England who delivered their worst performance since Gareth Southgate took over as manager.
The defeat ended England’s decade-long unbeaten run in European Championship and World Cup qualifiers going back to a 1-0 loss to Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk exactly 10 years ago.
Southgate’s side lacked precision in their passing, fluency in their movement and solidity at the back and the coach was clearly not happy with the display.
“I think we have had a lot of credit over the last couple of years and tonight we did not do enough. Our performance was not good enough, it’s as simple as that. The goals we conceded were typical of the chances we gave away,” he said.
“Collectively we have to accept there were not enough good performances. We conceded too many poor chances and we gave the ball away too many times,” added Southgate.
Substitute Zdenek Ondrasek grabbed the winner five minutes from time when he confidently fired past keeper Jordan Pickford after Lukas Masopust burst down the right and picked him out.
It was a special moment for the burly Ondrasek who was making his national team debut at the age of 30 having enjoyed a recent run of scoring form for FC Dallas in Major League Soccer.
Harry Kane had put England ahead with a penalty in the fifth minute after Raheem Sterling was brought down by Masopust.
But the Czechs drew level four minutes later when Jakub Brabec turned the ball home at the back post after the ball fell to him when Ondrey Celustka beat Michael Keane to a corner.
The home side looked sharper and hungrier, with Vladimir Darida excellent and influential in midfield, while England’s shape never looked right.
The midfield, featuring two holding midfielders in Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice, was unable to get a grip on the game with the result that wingers Sterling and Jadon Sancho received little service.
Pickford did well to tip over a dangerous dipping shot from Masopust on the hour but chances were rare until Ondrasek popped up inside the area to end England’s unbeaten qualifying run.
The result means the Czechs join group leaders England on 12 points with four wins, although they have played one game more.
England face Bulgaria in Sofia on Monday and Kane said they would need to improve.
“It’s a bit of a wake-up call but we’re in a good position. There’s still stuff to work on for sure. We gave the ball away too cheaply and we’ll have to go away and look at it. There’s no need to panic and we’ll go again on Monday.”
Group A’s other game between Montenegro and Bulgaria ended goalless.
Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Fallon
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