England manager Gareth Southgate backs John Stones after error contributed to semi-final defeat

Gareth Southgate has backed John Stones after the Manchester City defender’s error contributed to England’s 3-1 defeat to Netherlands.

Marcus Rashford opened the scoring in the Nations League semi-final clash with a first-half penalty before Matthjis de Ligt headed Ronald Koeman’s side level.

But Stones’ error led to Kyle Walker’s own goal in extra-time before another mistake - this time from Chelsea’s Ross Barkley - led to Quincy Promes sealing the result.

And Southgate has defended his charges after a second major tournament semi-final defeat in a year.

The former Middlesbrough boss said: “If we didn’t play that way, we wouldn’t get to the semi-finals we’ve got to, and we’d never progress to being a top team. Holland played that way as well and made a horrible error.

“I have to support John because he’ll get horrible criticism tonight. But he and Harry [Maguire] take huge strain on their shoulders and are incredibly courageous to do that. We didn’t lose because of how we want to play. The errors were uncharacteristic really and not ­errors we’d normally make.

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“It wasn’t risk. It was poor execution and fatigue. Certainly the last one [Barkley], I can’t overreact. I have to support them in what is a difficult moment for everybody.”

England were left ruing the Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool, starting none of those who featured in Madrid a week ago.

Captain Harry Kane replaced Rashford at half-time, while Jordan Henderson came on in the latter stages and Dele Alli joined the mix in extra time.

“I think we’ve had some players who, at the end of the season, found it difficult in terms of the amount of minutes on the pitch, and others having the complete opposite,” he added.

“I think fatigue has played a part tonight. A lack of match sharpness, too. I’m asking them to play in a way that puts them under huge pressure at the back.”

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