No fans, no goals: England and Croatia play to a dull draw Jesus scores as Brazil beats Saudi Arabia 2-0 in friendly
Deprived of a seat inside the stadium through no fault of their own, a small band of loyal England supporters watched the game from a hilltop overlooking the virtually empty ground. There wasn't much to see. England and Croatia played to a 0-0 draw in the UEFA Nations League on Friday, a lackluster match that took place in front of no fans as the Croats completed a stadium ban imposed in 2015.
While this was Croatia's fifth behind-closed-doors international, it was a first for England, and that made it a somewhat bizarre experience for not only the players but the few dozen fans who decided to travel to the coastal city of Rijeka to support their team.
The shouts of the players and the thud of a kicked ball could be heard distinctly, as could the occasional chants of "Enger-land" and "God Save The Queen" that drifted into the stadium from outside. The only people in the stands were match delegates and members of the media.
Given the eerie atmosphere, perhaps it was no surprise the game was such a dud. England struck the goal frame twice — through Eric Dier and Harry Kane — and Marcus Rashford wasted two golden opportunities when oneon-one with the goalkeeper as England had the better of the chances.
This was a repeat of the World Cup semifinal won by Croatia in July, and it seemed a world away from that tense, nerve-jangling night in Moscow.
The two teams are searching for the form they showed at that tournament, in particular the Croatians.
This result came after last month's 6-0 loss to Spain in their opening match of the Nations League. England lost 2-1 to Spain its Group 4 opener in the top-tier League A.
Looking to the future, England coach Gareth Southgate gave a debut to Jadon Sancho as a late second-half substitute, and the 18year-old Borussia Dortmund winger impressed with some surging runs down the right flank.
Croatia had received the stadium ban from UEFA three years ago when a swastika was painted on its field ahead of a game. opening group win last month. Lukaku, who now has 45 goals in 78 international matches, hasn't scored in his last six appearances for United in all competitions.
Lukaku's winner came in the 84th, after Mario Gavranovic had equalized for the Swiss in Brussels.
The winners of the four threeteam groups in League A will advance to the Nations League finals in June. the mark in Group 3. BosniaHerzegovina tops the standings with two straight victories, while the Northern Irish are yet to earn a point.
In League C, Finland won 1-0 at Estonia and Greece beat Hungary by the same score, leaving the victorious teams as the top two in Group 2.
In Group 2 of League D, Belarus beat Luxembourg 1-0 to jump to first place, while Moldova beat San Marino 2-0.
The Nations League guarantees at least one of Europe's lowranked League D teams will qualify for Euro 2020 through the playoffs.
Gabriel Jesus and Alex Sandro scored a goal each as Brazil defeated Saudi Arabia 2-0 in a friendly on Friday.
Jesus opened the scoring after a pass by Neymar in the 43rd minute and Alex Sandro sealed the victory with a header near the end of the match at King Saud University Stadium.
Dutch referee Danny Makkelie sent off Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais in the 84th after a video review showed he touched the ball with his hand out of his box.
Brazil, preparing for next year's Copa America at home, will play Argentina in another friendly in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino is expected to replace Jesus in that match.
The Manchester City striker was under criticism at home for not scoring in the World Cup. The last time he found the net was in the friendly against Austria before the tournament in Russia, a 3-0 win by Brazil.
"Everyone trusted me, coach Tite trusted me. What's in the past will stay in the past," Jesus said. "Of course I was upset (after the World Cup). I stayed at my mom's to recover. It was not the World Cup of my dreams. I hope things improve from now on."
Brazil played the entire match in slow motion, as if already looking forward to the South American derby next week.
"We were not convincing," Tite said. "We won because he had creativity up front and that was it. Brazil versus Argentina is never a friendly. We hope to be better for that."
Tite experimented against Saudi Arabia, with Alex Sandro replacing Marcelo and Bordeaux defender Pablo substituting Thiago Silva.
Brazil had already beaten the United States and El Salvador in post-World Cup friendlies.