Performance ‘step in right direction’ – Southgate

England needed to avoid defeat in Italy to maintain their hopes of avoiding Nations League relegation

Gareth Southgate says England’s performance in their defeat by Italy was “a step in the right direction” despite the Three Lions being relegated to the Nations League’s second tier.

England are without victory in five games for the first time since June 2014 following the 1-0 loss in Milan.

They have also failed to score a goal from open play in 495 minutes.

“It’s difficult for me to be too critical of the performance,” said England manager Southgate.

“We had more possession, more shots, more shots on target. For large parts of the game we played very well,” he added.

“It’s a spell where ultimately results are going to be the thing that everyone reacts to but I thought there were a lot of positives for us as a team tonight.

“Lots of good individual performances. I personally thought the performance is a step in the right direction. I completely understand because of the result that is not going to be the reaction.”

England needed to avoid defeat against Italy at the San Siro to give themselves a chance of staying in League A in their final game against Germany.

But Southgate’s winless side will finish bottom of Group A3 after losing three of their five matches so far and there were boos from the travelling supporters at full-time.

During that run Harry Kane’s penalty against Germany remains England’s only goal, and they have now gone three consecutive internationals without a goal for the first time since November 2000.

England’s final Nations League match against Germany at Wembley on Monday will also double as their final fixture before their World Cup opener against Iran in Qatar on 21 November.

“It’s really difficult to pinpoint why we are not scoring. I think we are getting into the right areas. We had the moments where we would have the pass but we just didn’t deliver that final piece of quality tonight,” Southgate said.

On the reaction from the fans, he added: “I understand the reaction at the end because that’s the results we have had in this competition. It’s an understandable emotional reaction.

“There will be a huge amount of noise of course but that’s been created from the summer really. I totally understand that. The players in the dressing room know that this is a game they could well have won.”

England midfielder Declan Rice told Channel 4: “It’s obviously disappointing. Every tournament we go into, we set out to win.

“In the Nations League we have slipped below our standards but I didn’t think it was all bad tonight. We just lacked that cutting edge in the end,” he added.

“It’s coming. It was a much better performance tonight than we saw in the summer.

“It’s not that we’re not creating the chances. So many times tonight we got into the opposition’s box. I see it in training, there are goals for fun.

“Trust me, we are going to be good.”

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