Roy Hodgson has defended his use of substitutions after the England manager came under fire following a disappointing 1-1 draw against Russia.
Eric Dier had given the Three Lions a deserved lead with a powerful free-kick in the second half and as the game entered its final stages, huge gaps started to appear in a tiring Russian defence.
But instead of capitalising on the advantage, Hodgson chose to try and protect what England had and left the plethora of attacking options – Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford – on the bench.
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Instead, Hodgson replaced captain Wayne Rooney in the 78th, bringing on Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, and Raheem Sterling for James Milner several minutes later.
Popular opinion suggests that the changes forced England to defend deeper, inevitably allowing Vasili Berezutski to score from a looping header in injury time, claiming an unlikely point for Leonid Slutsky's men.
Hindsight is bliss
Hodgson, however, told his critics that his substitutions only appeared flawed in hindsight and that he was happy with his decisions at the time. Indeed, he believes Rooney, who played in midfield, had run out of gas by the time he was taken off.
"I thought he [Rooney] had a good game, but was tiring," Hodgson told Sky Sports.
"Quite a lot of players out there were tiring because, although it wasn't baking hot, there was quite a humid atmosphere which saps the strength of the players.
"We just thought, with the control we had in the game and Wilshere on the bench, we could have the luxury of taking Wayne off the field and that Jack would do a similar job. I think that's exactly what happened.
"Always afterwards you can look and think 'Could we have used more subs? Could we have done a bit more?' But we didn't honestly believe we were in great difficulties during that time and we thought we'd see the game out 1-0.
"If anything, we replaced Raheem Sterling, who had worked very hard, with James Milner with a view perhaps to seeing the game out, but were unlucky to concede the late goal."
Taking the positives
Although admitting he was disappointed not to get a deserved victory, Hodgson believes his England team showed enough to remain positive going into their next game against Wales.
"To say we are bitterly disappointed would be an understatement," the England boss added. "To get that close to a victory, which I believe would have been a deserved victory, and then to lose it with one minute of injury time remaining is a tough pill to swallow.
"But that's what happens in football. One doesn't have a divine right not to concede a goal at any stage of the game and it happens to be a very good goal from their point of view.
"That doesn't make the matter any easier for me to accept or to feel good about but it won't take us long to get over it.
"When we start our work to prepare for the next game I think there will be a lot of things from the game that we'll want to take forward and hopefully we'll be able to put the memory of this last minute goal behind us."
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