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Football news - England and Croatia play out dull draw to hand Spain control of group

England and Croatia play out dull draw to hand Spain control of group

12/10/2018 at 20:38Updated 12/10/2018 at 21:54

UEFA Nations League, Group 4, Stadion Rujevica – Croatia 0 England 0

England secured their first point in UEFA Nations League Group A4 following a goalless draw with Croatia in a dour behind-closed-doors clash in Rijeka.

Gareth Southgate's side had the better opportunities but could not avenge their World Cup semi final loss to Zlatko Dalic's side just 93 days earlier.

Eric Dier and Harry Kane both hit the woodwork while Marcus Rashford missed two gilt-edged second-half opportunities.

At the other end Croatia struggled to carve out significant openings in a game lacking atmosphere and tempo with Andrej Kramaric and Ivan Perisic seeing their best efforts saved by Jordan Pickford.

With 13 minutes to go Southgate introduced 18-year-old Jadon Sancho and the Borussia Dortmund forward gave a cameo of his exciting quality with a couple of jinking runs on a night he became the second youngest England player to win his first cap in a competitive game.

The result means England remain second in the pool on one point, ahead of Croatia on goal difference. Spain are top with two wins from two.

The Three Lions will now turn their attention to Monday's Group A4 clash in Sevilla against the in-form La Roja.

TALKING POINT.

The supporters were badly missed. Croatia were rightly sanctioned by UEFA, but perhaps there needs to be an alternative to 'behind-closed-doors.' The crowd plays such a huge part in top-level football and there was a distinct lack of energy and urgency from both teams in a very forgettable first half. This was a repeat of the World Cup semi final in the summer, but the usual spice and context associated with such a rematch was sadly missing until the second period. It was the first time in 988 matches (since 1872) that England have played behind-closed-doors, and on this evidence, supporters best hope it's the last. The plus points for Southgate and co were that they were solid despite the change of system, Ben Chilwell's first senior start, Ross Barkley's first appearance for his country since 2016 and the introduction of 18-year-old Sancho.

Next up it's Spain, who look red-hot favourites to top the pool, leaving England and Croatia to surely scrap it out to avoid relegation from Group A4 when they meet again at Wembley on November 18.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Ben Chilwell (England). Produced a stylish display on his full senior bow. Defended well within the back four and looked to surge forward to offer a regular outlet down the left.

PLAYER RATINGS

CROATIA: Livakovic 7, Jedvaj 7, Lovren 7, Vida 8, Pivaric 7, Rakitic 6, Kovacic 7, Kramaric 6, Modric 7, Perisic 7, Rebic 6. Subs: Pjaca 6, Badelj 6, Livaja n/a.

ENGLAND: Pickford 7, Walker 7, Chilwell 8, Stones 7, Maguire 7, Dier 6, Henderson 6, Barkley 6, Sterling 6, Kane 5, Rashford 5. Subs: Sancho 7.

KEY MOMENTS

38' - CROATIA CHANCE. Josip Pivaric motors to the left byline and drills a low ball towards Andrej Kramaric, who sees a miss-hit shot well saved by Pickford.

43' - ENGLAND HIT THE POST. Dier makes an intelligent near-post run to meet the right-wing corner, but sees his flick header cannon off the back stick.

50' - CROATIA CHANCE. Croatia patiently probe and work it to Perisic 20 yards out. He lets fly with rasping drive that Pickford parries away.

51' - ENGLAND HIT THE BAR. Kane rises to meet a right-wing free kick and sees his header smack back off the crossbar.

55' - ENGLAND CHANCE. Walker steers a wonderful pass from the right into Rashford who has all day to take a touch and finish in the area, but the Man United forward horribly scuffs his shot straight at the keeper. He simply had to score there.

57' - ENGLAND CHANCE. Rashford is sent clear again, but once more he fails to deliver with a low shot that is too close to Livakovic.

KEY STATS

England recorded just one shot in the first half against Croatia; the fewest amount in the opening 45 minutes of an away game for the Three Lions since June 2015 against Republic of Ireland (also, 1).

At 18years & 200 days, Jadon Sancho becomes England’s youngest debutant since Raheem Sterling (17 years & 342 days) v Sweden in Nov 2012 (10th youngest overall).

Sancho is the second youngest England player to win his first cap in a competitive game, behind only Duncan Edwards (18y 183d) in April 1955 against Scotland.

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