Herald on Sunday
Scots frustrate limp England
Kane kept quiet as visitors stay in hunt to make round of 16
The old border skirmish of British football came back with a vengeance to hurt the high ambitions of Gareth Southgate’s modern England, nullified and often exposed by a Scotland side who refused to accept this should play out the way it so often has.
The Euro 2020 destiny of both nations will be decided on Wednesday, with Steve Clarke’s Scotland still having much to play for and Southgate contemplating a defining game against the Czech Republic so early in this tournament.
There were many questions for the England manager to ponder as his side failed to break down a Scotland team who controlled midfield and the usual big English names who tend to win games for Southgate at Wembley.
It was a bad night for his captain and scorer Harry Kane, who was substituted with 15 minutes remaining as Southgate searched for a way to break a stubborn Scottish back three, led by Grant Hanley.
In many ways, Kane was as much the problem as the solution.
On his good days, he is one of the game’s ultimate goal threats for Tottenham and England. But the sluggish striker never came close to scoring in the 0-0 draw.
The England captain barely even touched the ball, and yet Southgate
persisted with him for 74 draining minutes.
“It was a tough game,” Kane said. “Scotland defended really well, made great blocks at the right times when we did have chances.”
England defender John Stones had one of those chances when he hit the post with a header in the 11th minute, and Mason Mount had another when his shot was deflected wide at the start of the second half.
Scotland’s best opportunity came when forward Lyndon Dykes had a shot cleared off the line by defender Reece James in the 63rd minute.
“We’ve got to look at the whole performance, the use of the ball and review where we can be better,”
Southgate said. “So it’s not just about one person. Scotland, I thought, marked him extremely well. With the back five, there wasn’t a lot of space.”
Kane looked as exhausted as England looked devoid of ideas against the dogged and well-marshalled Scots, who lost their Group D opener to the Czech Republic 2-0 but still have a chance to advance to the round of 16.
“I thought we were unfairly criticised after the game [on Tuesday],” Scotland coach Steve Clarke said. “We worked ever so hard when England had the ball, but the great thing is we played when we had the ball and had some chances.”
The English will advance as group winners with a victory against the Czech Republic, who also have four points from two games. Scotland and Croatia, who also meet on Wednesday, have one point each.
The heatwave in London when England opened Euro 2020 by beating Croatia 1-0 was replaced by a chilly downpour for the 115th meeting in 149 years with Scotland — and a first scoreless draw between the neighbours at Wembley.
What also changed from the opener was the stadium speakers blaring out the Euro 2020 official song, We Are the People, to drown out the smattering of boos that again greeted players taking a knee in their anti-racism gesture before kickoff.
For the renewal of football’s oldest rivalry, there was something of a throwback, with Scotland playing two strikers: Dykes and Che Adams.
England’s only changes from the win over Croatia were in defence, with Kieran Trippier dropped and Kyle Walker not even making the bench. Southgate brought back a specialist left back in Luke Shaw, with James on the right for his technical ability and to rotate the squad.
The back line allowed the opposition far more space, and Stephen O’Donnell found a way through to force a one-handed save from England keeper Jordan Pickford in the 30th minute.
“At times, we kept the ball superbly well and frustrated them,” Scotland captain Andrew Robertson said, “and on another night, we could have come away with more.”
The pandemic-restricted crowd of 22,000, most of them England fans, roared when Jack Grealish was shown on the big screens on the England bench. The clamour was for an injection of his creativity.
Grealish came on for Phil Foden in the 63rd minute but Scotland wouldn’t buckle. And by the time Southgate made his second and final change — despite being able to make five — Marcus Rashford lacked the time to make an impact as Kane’s replacement.
“We needed a few more runs behind,” Southgate said. “I felt Marcus would give us that energy and had to try to get the win at that point.”
The goal never came, with England managing only one shot on target. No wonder the fourth-ranked team were booed off by their own fans after being held by a team 40 places lower in the Fifa rankings.
“I totally understand their reaction,” Southgate said. “We are expected to beat Scotland. They will be frustrated by that.”