Jason Burt, The Telegraph’s Chief Football Correspondent, has raised the question over whether or not Gareth Southgate can trust Everton centre-back Michael Keane after his England blunders.
England beat Kosovo 5-3 at St. Mary’s Stadium on Tuesday night, with the Three Lions enjoying a wealth of success in attack as Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho offered a frightening prospect that Burt suggests sent a message to the rest of Europe of the threat they offer.
The defence were, at times, ‘second-class’ and showed that uncertainty remains prevalent in the Three Lions’ ranks, though, as Keane looked out of sorts and Harry Maguire’s panicky actions gifted the visitors a penalty shortly after the break, having already conceded twice – one of which came after just 34 seconds.
While Maguire was responsible for Kosovo’s third, Keane was at fault for the opening strike which came inside the first minute, as the Everton mainstay passed directly to Vedat Muriqi under the pressure of Kosovo’s offence, who fed the ball into Valon Berisha to score.
The £60,000-a-week (Spotrac) Blues defender was largely at fault for Bernard Challandes’ side’s second, as well, as Keane lost Muriqi’s cross in the air, which allowed Berisha to peel off him, cut back inside, and secure a brace against the fourth-ranked FIFA nation.
Some fans from around the country are now questioning why Southgate overlooks certain English centre-halves and continues with Keane (via the Chronicle), while Burt has raised the question if Southgate can even trust the Toffees ace again.
“It was catastrophic as England played the ball out from the back,” Burt wrote after the Kosovo game. “Maguire into the feet of Ross Barkley was fine as was the midfielder’s pass back to Keane but he, inexplicably, miscued his pass intended for Maguire with it going straight to Vedat Muriqi, who slipped Valon Berisha in on goal.
“No matter how well Kosovo played, how brave and fearless they were, it should have been game over with Southgate given the option of bringing on substitutes earlier than the 83rd minute. Instead, he was left fretting about whether he can trust Michael Keane, whether Trent Alexander-Arnold went missing and if he can leave Declan Rice as the holding midfielder.”
One error by Keane, or two in this case, will likely not be enough to trigger alarm bells in Southgate’s mind, but the seed of doubt will perhaps have been planted, and in turn put the 26-year-old under the spotlight more so than he may have been before kick-off.
Keane also atoned for his error in part during the European qualifying win over Kosovo, as he met a Ross Barkley corner with a powerful header to drive the ball towards Sterling to score.
The Everton man also displayed his defensive worth at times with three interceptions, two clearances, and a 90% pass success rate from 87 efforts (WhoScored), while offering a threat from set-pieces that almost led to the Manchester-born defender notching his second goal on the senior international stage (TransferMarkt).
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