Gareth Southgate on two balls controversy and what Jack Grealish said to him after the substitute was substituted on glory night for England

Gareth Southgate believes the referee was right to play on despite there being two balls on the park in the lead up to the decisive moment in England’s Euro 2020 semi-final victory over Denmark last night.

England manager Gareth Southgate (L) speaks with England's midfielder Jack Grealish (R) before the player was substituted on during the Euro 2020 semi-final win over Denmark. Grealish was later taken off again. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
England manager Gareth Southgate (L) speaks with England's midfielder Jack Grealish (R) before the player was substituted on during the Euro 2020 semi-final win over Denmark. Grealish was later taken off again. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The England manager said he had seen a similar incident in an English club game where a stray ball had appeared on a pitch and on that occasion also a subsequent goal had stood.

There was also controversy over whether Raheem Sterling dived to win the penalty that Harry Kane converted from the rebound after Kasper Schmeichel saved his original effort.

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Southgate admitted he knew there was a lot of debate about the penalty on account of the extra ball as well as accusations that Sterling had simulated contact from Joakim Maehle. Mathias Jensen went off injured shortly afterwards leaving his side, who had used all their substitutes, with ten men for the second period of extra-time.

“I saw the ball on the pitch so I was not sure how that would be dealt with, but I saw a game in England before where that happened and the goal was not disallowed,” said Southgate, in reply to a Danish journalist who questioned the validity of the award.

“I have not seen the penalty situation but a lot of people have asked me the same question. But I think the statistics on the game, the number of saves…I mean Kasper Schmeichel had an incredible game in goal. I think we had the better of the chances and we created far more chances so probably, on the balance of the game, I felt we deserved it. But if you are telling me the penalty was soft, I can understand.

“I’d also just say I thought Denmark had an incredible tournament,” added Southgate. “I was talking to Simon Kjaer after the game, their leadership and the way they have responded to everything that has happened to them has been immense.”

On the Jack Grealish issue, Southgate explained that the alteration was tactical rather than forced upon them due to injury. The Aston Villa skipper replaced Bakayo Saka to huge acclaim after 69 minutes but was taken off again at the start of the second period of extra-time as England looked to protect their 2-1 lead, with Kieran Trippier sent on instead.

“They have gone 4-4-2 and thrown everyone forward,” explained the manager. “We needed to keep the pressure on going forward but have the numbers to deal with balls into the box.

“In the end, Raheem was causing so many problems and was causing them so many problems all night, it was going to have to be Phil (Foden) or Jack who came off. We made that decision. It was not an easy one, but Jack totally understood it. At the end he said to me: ‘Gaffer I am not really bothered, we got to the final!’

“But I must say he had absolutely the impact we were looking for at the moment he came into the game. Bakayo had settled into the game – he started a bit nervously. He was playing well but we just felt Jack could give us even more at that moment and with Raheem running at Vestergaard on the other side, it was a change we fancied seeing.”

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