Only thing missing was ruthlessness, says England Under-21s boss Southgate

The new Young Lions boss feels his side got most things right in their 1-0 win over Moldova Under-21s and was surprised they could not add to Saido Berahino's goal
England Under-21s manager Gareth Southgate feels that his side did "a lot of things" right in their 1-0 win over Moldova Under-21s on Thursday.

In the new boss's first match in charge, a Saido Berahino goal provided three points in the Young Lions' opening game of Euro 2015 qualifying, though the 43-year-old acknowledges that more ruthlessness was required to kill the contest off for good.

"When we watch the game back, there'll be so many good things from it but, when you're getting 10 minutes from the end and they're getting free kicks into the box, you're always running the risk of it being a punchline at the end that you don't want," Southgate told the press.

MATCH REPORT: England Under-21s spurn chances but complete comfortable win over Moldova Under-21s
"But I'm so pleased with a lot of things. We controlled possession well. Even when the [second] goal didn't come, we didn't panic.

"We needed to get more men in the box, get more support up to Saido and probably to get crosses in slightly earlier. We'd made overlaps, we'd made two-v-one situations ... we just needed to be a bit more ruthless around the box.

"Even the fact, in the end, that it is only 1-0 ... the defence are alert and they've got to make sure their concentration is right and we played the game out. We didn't have to force things in the end. I was pleased with the game intelligence we showed in doing that – rather than putting the ball at risk, we just kept possession."

Throughout the second half, England missed several glaring opportunities and, though puzzled as to how some of them were not converted, Southgate is confident that creating them in the first place is encouraging enough.

"I'm not quite sure how a couple of them haven't gone in, really, so, on another night, we should have won it more comfortably," he added.

"We might not have got the number of goals that we wanted but we certainly created the number of chances that you'd have hoped for – clear chances, not just half-chances. When you look at that attacking play, you're always thinking: 'OK, well, 1-0, why isn't it more?' If you're not creating anything, it's a concern but that certainly wasn't the case tonight.

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"Several of them played with that freedom that I wanted. There were one or two slightly nervy passes in the first half but I thought that was understandable, with it being a new start and new players coming in – and the expectation that we would win comfortably, that's not always easy."

Southgate was enthused by the exciting play on show, particularly the pace and skill of Wilfried Zaha and Nathan Redmond on the wings, and hopes that his side can prove that the future is bright, even if they cannot be guaranteed regular first-team football at club level.

He observed: "As Roy [Hodgson] said last month, there's lots of talk about what English players can and can't do in terms of keeping possession and passing the ball; I think we certainly did that. There's quite a rich group of talented players coming through but talent alone won't be enough, as I keep emphasising to the players.

"[First-team football] is always an issue for young players. It's a gamble for first-team managers to put young players in but, if their football is with us, that's fine, that means it's more important to them when they come with us.

"We're here to help their development as much as the clubs are. Experiences like the game tonight where it's a packed defence and they've got to keep their concentration at the back, it's slightly different to club football and was a good test for them."