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Walker, Maguire praise Stones after England back makes amends for gaffe

John Stones

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: Harry Maguire of England celebrates with Ben Chilwell, John Stones and Declan Rice after scoring their side’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between England and Poland on March 31, 2021 at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

The FA via Getty Images

John Stones’ name was cursed and then praised by England fans Wednesday when the Man City defender gave away a goal to Poland with a gaffe but then helped the Three Lions storm back for a win.

England led Poland 1-0 on a Harry Kane penalty when Stones was forced to react to a substandard pass from Nick Pope but appeared to recover before delivered an equalizer on a plate.

But Stones, known in the past for plenty of mistakes and dips in confidence, did not wilt and instead was one of two key players in England’s match-winning goal.

[ MORE: Germany shocked, England finds a winner ]

The Man City man charged to the front post to turn a corner kick back into the mix, where Harry Maguire hammered the ball home before seeking his Mancunian rival but international teammate in celebration.

“John has been brilliant this year,” Maguire said after the game. “Defenders make mistakes and when we do we get scrutinized. He made up for it with a great header at the back post. I said to him to just keep going. We don’t like making mistakes but sometimes we are at fault for goals. We are not perfect. He is in great form and he will come back strong.”

“You can fold in those moments and he didn’t,” said England manager Gareth Southgate. “He’s been having a good season and he’s made a mistake tonight, he knows that but he bounced back during the game and he’s got to keep doing that.”

International and club teammate Kyle Walker heaped praise on his fellow defender.

Walker said that Stones would indeed have wilted on the past, but has found a new level this season as Pep Guardiola and City move toward a third Premier League title in four years.

“That just shows John’s character this year,” Walker told Sky Sports. “It’s been fantastic. I’ve worked with him day-in, day-out at City, and the work he’s put in to get to where he is now, the performances he’s showing. Six months ago, probably John Stones would have not recovered from that, but he goes up the other end and gets an assist for Harry Maguire’s winner.”

England has nine of nine points to open World Cup qualifying. Crucially, they didn’t blow a chance to beat Robert Lewandowski-less Poland at home. Winning home qualifiers is one of the maxims of, well, qualifying for the World Cup.

Here’s his work on the winner. Poland helped, sure, but this is as close to “on a plate” as you can get with a header from the back post.

Follow @NicholasMendola