It was redemption again for John Stones. However, this time, he only had to wait 27 minutes to make amends as opposed to the 18 months his last England exile lasted after he played a major role at both ends in Wednesday night's 2-1 victory over Poland.
The defender was at fault in the second half, appearing too leisurely on the edge of the area and gifting possession to Poland’s Jakub Moder who gleefully gobbled the ball up, played a neat one two across the defeated centre-back and fired home an equaliser to cancel out Harry Kane’s first-half penalty.
Having faced fierce criticism for his displays two seasons ago, Stones has bounced back in stunning fashion this term, earning an international recall after showing imperious form to help Manchester City storm to the top of the Premier League. Here, at Wembley, he brushed off his error and made up for it with six minutes to go, heading a set-piece back from the far post and across the goal to assist Harry Maguire to lash home the winner.
Stones was a man relieved. There is little doubt he will have wondered about the reaction to his mistake but he maintained his focus and helped England win. At this stage, that is all that matters and, despite the error, the 26-year-old must start for Gareth Southgate’s side at the Euros.
These things happen, and some concerned fans will point to these things happening regularly with Stones in the backline but that was then. Now? He has shown consistency in his play and proved he is a world-class defender, capable of starting attacks just as brilliantly as he halts them. Stones must push this one to the back of his mind and remember how brilliant he has been.
Maguire was quick to defend and support his centre-back partner after the game and told ITV Sport, "John’s been brilliant this year. We are defenders, we make mistakes and when we make mistakes we get scrutinised. Obviously it's one little mistake but he makes up for it with a great header at the back post and that's what he’s there for. I said to him, 'Just keep going, keep going and we'll get the win' and we managed to do that.
"We don't like making mistakes but sometimes we are at fault for goals, we're not perfect by all means. John made a little blip tonight but came back strong.
"He’s in great form for his club, great form for his country and apart from that little mistake he made, and I'm sure he’ll not make it again soon, it was a big performance from him and the reaction he had to get the assist as well was important for the team."
Elsewhere, England’s midfield were bullish and full of energy. This wasn’t a classic but the team got the job done. Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips were diligent and industrious while Mason Mount was a reliable and efficient presence in the midfield which allowed Phil Foden to flourish and wander with creativity. They have all played better and more memorable games but the fact they battled the Stones’ setback to clinch three points show that England are clicking.
It was far from vintage and wasn't hugely convincing but England got the points and are top of World Cup Qualifying Group I with three wins from three. Stones, Maguire, the midfield and the rest of the team reacted to a bump in the road to take an important step forward.