England remain without a Uefa Nations League win after drawing with Croatia 0-0 in front of an empty stadium in Rijeka.
In a match bereft of any atmosphere – the match was played in an empty stadium as punishment after a swastika was imprinted into the pitch for Croatia’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy – the match spent most of its time masquerading as a training game.
The Three Lions did go closest to winning the match, with first Eric Dier and then Harry Kane hitting the woodwork, while Marcus Rashford squandered two one-on-one chances with Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic in quick succession.
AS IT HAPPENED: Croatia 0 England 0
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Kane did eventually get the ball into the net, but it was correctly ruled out for offside.
Jadon Sancho was then given 15 minutes on his England debut and the Borussia Dortmund starlet showed glimpses of why he’s such a promising talent, as he showed off some neat touches down the right wing is his cameo.
Perhaps of more concern would be the yellow cards handed to Jordan Henderson and John Stones, ruling them out of Monday’s Nations League match against Spain.
Manager Gareth Southgate reverted to a back four with Kyle Walker kept as right back and a front three of Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. Ross Barkley was handed his first England start in two years.
Andrej Kramaric had the first real chance of the first half, but he struck his shot into the turf which allowed Jordan Pickford to swat it out.
As half-time loomed, England finally created their first chance – and went agonisingly close to taking the lead. Eric Dier sent his header against the post and the ball rebounded agonisingly wide of three England players following in.
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The second half could only improve, and both sides came out with more attacking intent. Ivan Perisic forced a smart save from Pickford, before Kane had a chance to put England in front but he could only send his free header against the bar.
England started to dominate play and Rashford should have put the visitors ahead after 55 minutes, but the flimsy finish with which he greeted an inviting Kyle Walker ball into the box left Livakovic with a comfortable save.
It got no better for Rashford two minutes later, when the Manchester United frontman failed to slot past the goalkeeper after being played through on goal by Raheem Sterling.
Home fans silenced
With both teams only allowed 75 officials each inside the stadium, including the playing squads and coaching staff, calling the atmosphere ‘flat’ would be generous. The match had all the intensity of a training ground match – or worse, a meaningless friendly. England didn’t manage a single attempt until they hit the post in the 43rd minute, while Pickford was the only goalkeeper required to make a save in the first half.
England fire blanks
Much had been made in the build up on the form in front of goal for both Kane and Sterling, and neither man were able to dispel those concerns in Rijeka. To be fair to the England duo, they spent most of the match feeding off scraps. However, it was noticeable than early in the second half when England were on the counter-attack, it was Barkley and not Kane, who was making up the most ground to support to Sterling.
Meanwhile, United striker Rashford will be glad there was nobody in the ground to see his pair of missed opportunities just short of the hour mark. A completely miscued finish was followed by a failure to test Livakovic from a glorious position, squandering two chances to hand England the lead.
England need win in Spain
Two games, no wins. Failure to win here means England are five points adrift of Spain in Group Four so they must earn three points from their clash in Seville on Monday to stand any chance of winning the group.
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