LONDON • England manager Gareth Southgate admitted that Hungary gave his team a "tactical problem" as the Three Lions took another, somewhat faltering, step towards 2022 World Cup qualification when they drew 1-1 at Wembley on Tuesday.
The visitors went ahead with a Roland Sallai penalty in the 24th minute, but England equalised shortly after when a Phil Foden free kick was flicked on by Tyrone Mings and the ball was turned in by John Stones from close range.
The Hungarians were certainly more energetic and looked more motivated than when they were swept aside 4-0 by England in Budapest last month and Southgate was quick to praise them, while accepting his own side's shortcomings.
"Hungary, full credit to them. I thought they caused us a tactical problem. We weren't fluid and I didn't think we played at the level that we need to play," he said.
"We'll go away and think about the balance of the team a little bit but individually, we can do better as well. We made lots of simple mistakes with the ball.
"Right from the start, we weren't sharp with our play. It's the first time for a long time but we have to hold our hands up to that."
The result leaves England top of Group I on 20 points and three ahead of Poland, who beat Albania 1-0 away.
Southgate's men have two games remaining and will host Albania next month before a trip to minnows San Marino.
The Euro 2020 runners-up are still strong favourites to win the group, but have left themselves with work to do.
Often criticised for being too cautious, Southgate went for the crowd-pleasing option of playing his three most creative midfielders - Foden, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount - together but it proved something of a failure.
Meant as a tactic to supply forwards Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, the trio were unable to take control or really threaten to score a second goal.
Grealish had looked clever and occasionally dangerous in the first half, but Foden was unable to find the space and penetrative passing that made him so dangerous against Andorra in England's 5-0 win on Saturday and the "front five" seemed confused over their roles and relative positioning.
Southgate took Grealish off early in the second half and Kane and Sterling followed with 15 minutes remaining but the reshuffle failed to alter the course or feel of the match much.
To accommodate the midfield trio, Southgate dispensed with both of his usual holding midfielders and played with just Declan Rice in a shielding role.
It proved enough defensively as Hungary rarely threatened but the balance going forward was missing, much to the frustration of the crowd who had been hoping for a feast of creativity from players who turn on the style every week in the Premier League.
Asked about the formation, Southgate said: "We've got to reflect. We shouldn't just judge things on one game in terms of that sort of experiment.
"It was difficult to find space and we took a while to work out where those spaces might be. We gave the ball away and were over-running things and weren't great with our pressure."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE