England star Jack Grealish has hit back at former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane after he criticised the Aston Villa captain and Raheem Sterling for allowing Bukayo Saka to take England’s decisive penalty in last night’s Euro 2020 final penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy.
Trailing 3-2 on spot kicks, and England’s hopes of ending their 55-year wait for a major trophy slipping away from them, Saka stepped up as the Three Lions’ fifth designated penalty taker knowing that he had to score to keep the tie alive.
However, the 19-year-old, who stepped off the bench in the second half to replace Kieran Trippier, was to be denied by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, leaving him in tears in the penalty area, as Italy’s players celebrated around him.
Manager Gareth Southgate’s decision to have Saka as one of England’s five designated spot-kick takers soon drew criticism, with many feeling that the Arsenal ace was too young and inexperienced to be put in that position.
However, Keane, covering the match as a pundit, did not point the blame at Southgate, instead asking why neither Grealish or Sterling stepped up to the plate.
“If you’re Sterling or Grealish, you cannot sit there and have a young kid [Saka] go up for a penalty ahead of you, you can’t,” Keane told ITV. “You cannot let a shy 19-year-old go up in front of you.
“They have a lot more experience, Sterling has won trophies, they had to get in front of the young kid and stand up.”
Prior to the shoot-out getting started, Southgate was in discussion with Grealish, suggesting that he would have been one of the five designated takers. However, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Saka were the five that stepped up, but had Saka converted his effort it is possible that Grealish would have gone next.
Now, following Keane’s criticism of Grealish and Sterling for putting Saka in that position, the Villa star has hit back at the TV pundit by quote tweeting the story of Keane’s outburst shared by Sky Sports News.
Writing on Twitter in response to Keane’s claims, Grealish said: “I said I wanted to take one!!!!
“The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight! But I won’t have people say I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will…”
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Grealish, who stepped off the bench in extra time to replace Mason Mount, played a total of five times at the tournament, grabbing two assists, which came in the wins over the Czech Republic and Germany.
Many supporters had been desperate to see Grealish start more for the Three Lions, but Southgate went for his tried and tested approach, maximising the use of the likes of Sterling and Mount.