Closed-door draw weird for Eng­land

The Chronicle - - Safc -

ENG­LAND should have se­cured their first Na­tions League vic­tory af­ter Gareth South­gate’s men dealt with the quirks of play­ing be­hind closed doors and had the best chances against Croa­tia.

Just 93 days af­ter the Three Lions lost to Zlatko Dalic’s men in the World Cup semi-fi­nals, the coun­tries met in sur­round­ings which 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-ever 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.

Ev­ery shout, kick and chal­lenge was au­di­ble in the match played out in front of a few hun­dred of­fi­cials and jour­nal­ists.

There were reg­u­lar, dis­tant cries from a small group of hardy Eng­land fans whot 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 which 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, both of whom were booked, but there are mo­ments to build on.

There was also a glimpse of the fu­ture as 18-year-old sub­sti­tute Jadon San­cho be­came the first player born this mil­len­nium to play for the se­nior side, while 21-year-old Ben Chilwell im­pressed.

The Le­ices­ter left-back pro­vided 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.

His­tory boy San­cho showed flashes of ex­cite­ment af­ter his 78th-minute in­tro­duc­tion, with his threat­en­ing late cross caus­ing prob­lems in a match which ended frus­trat­ingly goal­less.

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