England miss out as they draw in Croatia
ENGLAND should have secured their first Nations League victory as Gareth Southgate’s men dealt with the quirks of playing behind closed doors and had the best chances against Croatia.
Only 93 days after the Three Lions lost to Zlatko Dalic’s men in the World Cup semi-finals, the countries met in surroundings that could scarcely have been more different to July’s huge encounter at the packed Luzhniki.
The virtually-empty Stadion HNK Rijeka hosted England’s first match behind closed doors as Croatia completed a ground ban imposed by UEFA for having a swastika on the pitch during a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy.
Eric Dier and Harry Kane hit the woodwork on a night when Marcus Rashford wasted two great chances, meaning the opportunity to exact World Cup revenge went begging as the Group A4 encounter ended 0-0 on a strange night for all involved.
The game did bring a first international cap for Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund, who came on as a second-half substitute to become the first player born this millennium to play for the senior side, but there was no cap for Derby County loan player Mason Mount, who was an unused substitute.
There were regular, distant cries from a small group of hardy England fans who had found a vantage point high above one of the stands but those efforts were rewarded with a poor first half in which Dier hit the post late on.
England improved after the break as Kane hit the woodwork before Rashford missed two fine chances, while Ante Rebic curled just wide for a Croatia side that had lost their Nations League opener 6-0 in Spain.
Southgate’s men face their own Spanish test on Monday without the suspended Jordan Henderson and John Stones but there are certainly promising moments to build on.
Ben Chilwell impressed, with the Leicester City left-back providing a fine cross 12 minutes into his first England start and Raheem Sterling would have tucked it away was it not for Josip Pivaric’s intervention.
Ivan Perisic’s blocked effort was the best Croatia managed in the first half until overlapping Pivaric fired over a cross to Andrej Kramaric, with the former Leicester striker’s mishit attempt stopped by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Penalty claims were rejected as Ross Barkley, making his first England appearance in 868 days, went down in the box - and Stones’ frustration at that decision resulted in a foul that brought a booking and suspension.
Southgate’s side were now in the ascendancy and Rashford should have put them ahead. Two minutes after failing to greet a fine Kyle Walker cross with the finish it deserved from close range, he was put through by Sterling but somehow failed to beat Livakovic.
Kane saw an effort ruled out for offside and seemingly broke the net in the process, leading to a pause in play that saw England fans get a wave from Pickford.
History boy Sancho showed flashes of excitement after his 78thminute introduction, with his threatening late cross causing problems in a match that ended goalless. HARRY Wilson knew Derby County was the club for him as soon as he spoke to Frank Lampard.
The Liverpool winger joined the Rams in July on a season-long loan after impressing at Hull City during the 2017-18 campaign.
Wilson hit seven goals in 13 appearances for the Tigers and was rewarded with a new contract at the Reds.
Jurgen Klopp wanted more first-team experience for Wilson and the 21-year-old knew where he wanted to go after speaking to Lampard.
“He’s been great,” Wilson said when asked about Lampard. “I spoke to him on the phone before I came to Derby.
“What he told me about how he wanted his team to play made me realise it was the right club for me.
“Since I’ve been there I have learned a lot. The way we have played in the last month or so has shown how we have progressed as a team.
“I feel fit and strong and am really enjoying my football at the minute.”
Wilson started the Rams’ opening three games this season but then spent more than a month on the sidelines after sustaining a groin problem in the Carabao Cup win at Oldham Athletic.
He returned to action in a goalless draw against Blackburn Rovers, before scoring two goals in two games, against Brentford and Manchester United.
Wilson was a starter for Wales in their friendly against Spain at the Principality Stadium on Thursday.
“I’m in the Wales squad regularly now and I’m delighted,” he said. “I made my debut at a very young age and Chris Coleman put his faith in me.
“I didn’t get an appearance for a few years but when you’re that young you’ve got to be patient, you have to learn your trade on the football ladder and now I’m back in the Wales squad I want to stay there.”
Raheem Sterling jumps for a header in front of and empty stadium during England’s Nations League match against Croatia. Ross Barkley (inset) evades Ante Rebic and Ivan Rakitic.