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England vs Belgium

'Mount is a very under-appreciated player' - Southgate defends decision to start 'intelligent' Chelsea star over Grealish

3:17 AM EDT 10/12/20
Mount England 2020
The England boss was full of praise for the midfielder after watching him score the winner in an international clash with Belgium at the weekend

Mason Mount is a "very under-appreciated player", according to Gareth Southgate, who defended his decision to start the "intelligent" Chelsea star over Jack Grealish in England's latest UEFA Nations League outing.

England recorded a 2-1 victory over Belgium at Wembley on Sunday, thanks to a Marcus Rashford penalty and a second-half strike from Mount.

The Three Lions fell behind when Romelu Lukaku netted a spot-kick with 16 minutes on the clock, but Rashford equalised from 12 yards shortly before the interval.

Mount grabbed the winner just after the hour mark after seeing his shot fly over the head of Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet following a heavy deflection, and Southgate's men held on for an impressive victory against the world's top-ranked side.

Southgate took a conservative approach to the game, however, as he included seven defensive-minded players and set up in a 3-5-2 formation designed to stifle the opposition's attacking threat.

The omission of Aston Villa talisman Grealish raised the most eyebrows after his standout display in a 3-0 friendly win over Wales last week, but Mount's performance ultimately vindicated his manager's decision.

Southgate says he opted to start the 21-year-old due to a combination of his quality on the ball and discipline off it, telling talkSPORT post-match: “He’s a top player. He can receive [the ball] under pressure.

“He’s intelligent with his movement. He’s, of course, still learning. To find space in the first half was difficult.

“But in a tactical game where it’s just as important defensively what the forwards do, to have a player like him who can do both sides… the way that Marcus Rashford did, the way Dominic Calvert-Lewin did.

“I read a lot of things about Mason and I think he’s a very under-appreciated player – but not by us.”

Grealish and Mount will both be back in contention for a spot in Southgate's line-up when England play host to Denmark on Wednesday.

The Three Lions are top of League A, Group 2 after their first three Nations League fixtures by one point ahead of Belgium, who are due to take in a midweek trip to Iceland.