Below-par England were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Hungary amid crowd trouble at Wembley on Tuesday, meaning a nervy penultimate qualifier with Albania awaits in November if they are to secure automatic passage to the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Hungary had been beaten 4-0 by England last month but took the lead when Luke Shaw’s high boot allowed Roland Sallai to score from the penalty spot (24) and a back-post finish from John Stones (37) was required to pull the hosts level.
Raheem Sterling headed against a post on the stroke of half-time as England began to find their stride but despite dominating the second period and seeing good chances passed up by Sterling and Harry Kane – who was surprisingly substituted with 15 minutes to play – there was no way through for Gareth Southgate’s side.
Earlier, Hungary supporters – who had been punished for racist abuse of England players when the sides met in September – booed the home side taking a knee, held up a banner against the gesture for equality, fought with police in the stands, and released a flare when they scored. One arrest was made for a racially aggravated public order offence following comments made towards a steward.
Hungary had seen their own chances of reaching Qatar diminish since losing to England, with Albania beating them home and away, but their draw at Wembley means Group I leaders England need four points from their remaining games against Albania and San Marino to be sure of the automatic qualifications spot.
England’s remaining fixtures
Nov 12 – Albania (h)
Nov 15 – San Marino (a)
England: Pickford (6), Walker (6), Stones (8), Mings (6), Shaw (5), Rice (6), Foden (6), Mount (5), Grealish (7), Sterling (5), Kane (5).
Subs: Saka (6), Henderson (6), Abraham (6), Watkins (N/A)
Man of the match: John Stones
How it happened…
As England’s players took a knee and Hungary’s players pointed to the ‘Respect’ badge on their shirt sleeves before kick-off, Hungary supporters booed and held up a banner rejecting the statement, in a reminder of the ugly scenes that took place when these sides met in Budapest last month, when there was a similar response and Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were racially abused.
Moments after the match started there were then clashes between riot police and Hungarian fans, who were able to support their side in London despite FIFA forcing Hungary to play behind closed doors at home for two games because of events during that England clash.
Regardless of the distractions of the away end, England’s players stayed focused on the pitch, with Kane sliding a shot wide from Shaw’s cross, Phil Foden impressing in a deeper midfield role, and Grealish hitting the target himself.
England made nine changes from their win away to Andorra on Saturday, with John Stones and Phil Foden retaining their places. Jesse Lingard wasn’t included in the squad, while Tyrone Mings replaced Conor Coady at centre-back, and Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling joined Harry Kane in attack.
But that promising start was swiftly undone when Shaw’s unnecessary high-boot challenge on Loic Nego as the Hungarian was running out of the penalty area gave the visitors the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot – and Sallai sent Jordan Pickford the wrong way to do just that.
England had a good shout for a penalty of their own as they searched for an instant response amid the fog of green from a Hungarian supporter’s flare, but referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez waved play on when Kane was caught from behind by Attila Szalai.
The home side were level eight minutes before the break, though, with Stones poaching at the back post to convert Foden’s flicked-on free-kick for his first England goal since his double in the 2018 World Cup win over Panama.
They will have felt they should have been in front, too, with Grealish twice crowded out after exciting surges into the box and Sterling heading against a post on the stroke of half-time.
Sterling raced onto a fine Foden pass soon after the restart but was unable to find Grealish with his cross before Kane bent a shot on target, and Stones headed just wide from a corner as England pressed for a second.
Grealish was less than impressed to be replaced soon after but Bukayo Saka’s introduction allowed England to go to a 3-4-3, although it was combination play between Kane and Sterling which brought the next chance, with the Man City man denied from a one-on-one by a good stop from Peter Gulacsi.
It was then Kane’s turn to miss a good opening, blazing over the bar when a deflection put him clear in the box. It was his last involvement, too, as Southgate raised eyebrows by replacing his captain with Tammy Abraham with just under 15 minutes to play.
Hungary replacement Filip Holender sent a rare second-half chance for the visitors over the bar after Saka was caught in possession but the hosts were piling forward by the end, with Gulacsi punching away a Saka cross before Shaw’s shot into the ground was diverted just off target by an offside Abraham.
However, there was to be no winner – and suddenly England’s command of the group doesn’t look quite as assured.
England boss Gareth Southgate to Sky Sports News: “I think we have to accept that we dipped below our usual levels. That was surprise, but it was a night where individually and collectively, we didn’t hit the heights we have been at. We didn’t quite do enough to win the game.
“We didn’t create as much as we would have hoped, but we have to give Hungary credit to that. We lost a little bit of positional disciple at times so there’s a lot for us to reflect on and work on.
“I thought we were a bit anxious with some of our passing and I thought we were trying to force things a little bit. We needed to simplify our game a little bit and move the ball more quickly at times. Lots that we can go away and feel like we should have been better at.”
Southgate to ITV: “It was a disappointing performance. Full credit to Hungary, I thought they caused us a tactical problem. We weren’t fluid and I didn’t think we played at the level we needed to play. It’s difficult to pinpoint. We’ll go away and think of the balance of the team a little bit, but individually, we can do better as well and we made lots of simple mistakes with the ball.
“We’ve got to go away and reflect. We shouldn’t judge things on one game in terms of that sort of experiment [playing Mount in forward areas and Foden in midfield] because right across the board from the start, we weren’t sharp with our play. We gave the ball away, we were overrunning things and I think we were underneath it. It’s the first time in a long time and we have to hold our hands up to that.”
On the performances of Kane and Sterling: “I don’t think we should look at individuals because collectively, we didn’t perform at the level we needed to. When you have that sort of situation, then it’s difficult for individuals as well.”
Hungary boss Marco Rossi: “The guys followed the tactics from the beginning to the end and they put in something by themselves – their skills and their hearts. We were a bit lucky but we found an English team that was not properly on its best evening.
“If I’m not wrong, this is the first time Hungary take points from Wembley after the 6-3 (in 1953). After the last match against Albania, I was an idiot. We are out, but we are not the idiots many of our false supporters were saying we are.”
On the fan trouble at Wembley: “No comment. I don’t want to comment on this situation. It’s not my task. Everything I could say could be interpreted in a different way.”
England need four points from their final two group games, at home to Albania and away to San Marino next month, in order to be certain of top spot in Group I and a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Southgate’s side can seal their qualification with a game to spare, but only in the unlikely event that Poland drop points in their game away to Andorra.
If Poland draw with Andorra, a win over Albania would send England through. If Poland lose to Andorra, a draw with Albania would be enough for England to go through.
The likelihood, given Poland will be expected to comfortably beat a team ranked 156th in the world, is that England will have to wait until after they have faced bottom side San Marino – the lowest-ranked team in international football.
But given their superior goal difference to Poland, three points from the two games may well be all England need to clinch top spot and an automatic place at Qatar.
Opta stats – Stones ends drought, Kane’s scoring streak over
- England remain unbeaten in their last 15 games against Hungary (W12 D3), scoring 30 and conceding just six during this period – only against Poland (18) are the Three Lions currently enjoying a longer unbeaten run against a specific nation.
- England (W14 D4) have gone 18 games without defeat in all competitions for the first time since a run of 19 between November 1965 – November 1966.
- England remain unbeaten in their last 32 home qualifying matches for major tournaments (World Cup/Euros – W28 D4), since a 2-3 defeat to Croatia in November 2007.
- Three of the last six goals England have conceded at Wembley stadium have come from the penalty spot (excluding shootouts), including Roland Sallai’s opener for Hungary in this game.
- John Stones became the 14th different goalscorer for England during this World Cup qualifying campaign. This was his first goal in 25 appearances for England, since netting a brace against Panama at the 2018 World Cup.
- Harry Kane failed to score for England in a qualifying match for a major international tournament (World Cup/Euro’s) for the first time since September 2017 vs Slovakia, having found the back of the net in 15 consecutive such matches prior to today.
- Manchester City had five different players starting for England tonight (Stones, Walker, Foden, Sterling & Grealish) – the most starters one club side has had in a game for England since June 2016 vs Iceland (Tottenham, 5).
England’s final two World Cup Qualifiers come next month. They host Albania at 7.45pm on Friday 12 November and then go to San Marino to finish their campaign with a 7.45pm kick-off on Monday 15 November.