LONDON (AP) — Harry Maguire came to England’s rescue after a mistake by fellow center back John Stones, scoring a late goal to clinch a 2-1 victory over Poland in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.
It was a third successive win for England on the road to Qatar, but this one looked in doubt after Stones lost the ball and Jakub Moder canceled out Harry Kane’s penalty.
Stones redeemed himself for the earlier blunder when his header kept a corner from Kalvin Phillips in play and the ball reached Maguire to volley in despite goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny getting a touch to it in the 85th minute.
“We are defenders — we always make mistakes,” Maguire said. “We don’t like mistakes. Sometimes we are at fault for goals.”
And England should have scored more in a dominant first half for Gareth Southgate’s Group I leaders — rather than relying on Raheem Sterling being fouled by Michał Helik for Kane to score his 34th goal for England in the 19th minute.
But the ineffective visitors were given a route back into the game when Stones dithered in possession on the edge of the England penalty area under pressure from Moder. Stones gave the ball away to Arkadiusz Milik who returned it to Moder to net the equalizer in the 58th minute.
It was the first shot on target faced by England in its three qualifiers and the first goal Nick Pope had conceded in his seven games in England’s goal.
Gifted a leveler, Poland gradually looked more of a threat — even without the injured Robert Lewandowski. Southgate had still made no changes to his side as the game reached the 85th minute — and it paid off.
“I said keep going and we will get the win,” Maguire recalled telling Stones.
It was the last chance for Southgate to assess his players before selecting a squad for the rescheduled European Championship. And when England plays its opener against Croatia on June 13, at least 10,000 fans should be allowed back into Wembley Stadium with the pandemic restrictions lifted.
While England players took the knee before kickoff, their Polish counterparts did not perform the anti-racism gesture — instead pointing to the UEFA respect badge on their jerseys.
Hungary remains two points behind England in second place after winning 4-1 at Andorra in the pursuit of the only automatic qualification place. Albania rose above Poland into third place by beating San Marino 2-0.
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