Hart saves Eng­land from de­feat

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Gareth South­gate's de­ci­sion to drop much-ma­ligned cap­tain Wayne Rooney did lit­tle to im­prove Eng­land as an at­tack­ing force as they re­lied on Joe Hart to se­cure a 0-0 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing draw in Slove­nia.

Rooney's in­ef­fec­tive dis­play in Satur­day's 2-0 win over Malta was the lat­est in a long string of un­der­whelm­ing show­ings and ul­ti­mately brought about his omis­sion from the start­ing XI, but Eng­land were not much bet­ter in his ab­sence, with Hart res­cu­ing them on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

Eric Dier, Rooney's re­place­ment on the day, al­most sin­gle-hand­edly in­spired an open­ing goal for Slove­nia early on, as his poor back pass re­sulted in Jas­min Kur­tic strik­ing the post after a good save by Hart.

Hart also had to spare the blushes of Jor­dan Hen­der­son - cap­tain in Rooney's ab­sence - deep into the sec­ond half as he en­sured the Three Li­ons held on for a point, tak­ing their Group F tally to seven from three matches.

South­gate jus­ti­fied his de­ci­sion to drop Rooney by high­light­ing the need to add ex­tra bite into the Eng­land mid­field and that in­creased in­ten­sity brought about their first chance.

Rooney was in­tro­duced from the bench shortly after and saw a con­trolled 25-yard ef­fort go just wide in the 79th minute, be­fore his Man­ches­ter United team-mate Jsse Lin­gard drew a strong save from Oblak.

But ul­ti­mately both goal­keep­ers were too good to be beaten in a game that Slove­nia will likely see as a missed op­por­tu­nity to claim a sur­prise vic­tory.

A Robert Mak dou­ble se­cured Slo­vakia their first win of 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing with a 3-0 vic­tory over Scot­land in Tr­nava.

Mak struck once ei­ther side of half-time, with Adam Ne­mec's sec­ond-half header giv­ing Slo­vakia all three points against the in­sipid vis­i­tors.

The winger's first came in con­tro­ver­sial cir­cum­stances as he fired home the re­bound from a David Mar­shall save, after the re­called Steven Fletcher ap­peared to have been fouled at other end of the field in the lead-up.

An em­phatic fin­ish from Mak and a tow­er­ing Ne­mec header in the sec­ond pe­riod in­ten­si­fies pres­sure on Scot­land man­ager Stra­chan fol­low­ing their 1-1 stale­mate with Lithua­nia at the week­end.

Stra­chan was in­censed with the na­ture of the hosts' first goal, but it was a de­served de­feat to a side who had not scored in four pre­vi­ous in­ter­na­tion­als.

Ger­many main­tained their 100 per cent record in Group C after strolling to a 2-0 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing vic­tory over North­ern Ire­land in Han­nover.

Joachim Low's men were high on con­fi­dence fol­low­ing their im­pres­sive 3-0 win over Czech Repub­lic on Satur­day and their su­pe­rior quality proved too much for North­ern Ire­land as well.

aThe world cham­pi­ons beat their op­po­nents 1-0 at Euro 2016 cour­tesy of a sin­gle Mario Gomez strike, but the Wolfs­burg striker was ab­sent due to in­jury this time around.

Gomez's place in the start­ing XI was taken by Ju­lian Draxler - the Ger­mans' only change from the en­counter in June - and the 23year-old led the way when he fired them into the lead in the 13th minute.

Ger­many im­me­di­ately pushed for a sec­ond and they got it just four min­utes later when Sami Khedira headed home from close range to ef­fec­tively put the match to bed with North­ern Ire­land never se­ri­ously threat­en­ing a come­back.

Eng­land’s Dele Alli in ac­tion against Slove­nia

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