Eng­land rue Rash­ford misses in Croa­tia stale­mate

Oman Daily Observer - - FOOTBALL/GOLF -

RI­JEKA, Croa­tia: Eng­land’s at­tempt to ex­act World Cup re­venge on Croa­tia fell short in a 0-0 Na­tions League draw in front of an empty sta­dium in Ri­jeka on Fri­day as the vis­i­tors were left to rue Mar­cus Rash­ford’s profli­gacy in front of goal.

Rash­ford twice fired too close to Do­minik Li­vakovic with just the Croa­tia goal­keeper to beat, while Eric Dier and Harry Kane also hit the wood­work for the Three Li­ons as Croa­tia toiled.

How­ever, a point does lit­tle for ei­ther side’s hopes of usurp­ing Spain, who beat both last month, to progress to the first ever Na­tions League semi­fi­nals next sum­mer.

Croa­tia were com­plet­ing a UEFA sanc­tion to play two games be­hind closed doors af­ter a swastika sym­bol was carved into the pitch dur­ing a Euro 2016 qual­i­fier against Italy in June 2015.

A small band of Eng­land fans perched on a hill over­look­ing the de­serted 8,000 ca­pac­ity sta­dium in Ri­jeka tried to of­fer their en­cour­age­ment.

How­ever, the lack of at­mo­sphere in the stands was re­flected on the pitch with nei­ther side un­der­stand­ably hit­ting the heights they did at the World Cup when Croa­tia beat Eng­land 2-1 in the semi­fi­nals.

Eng­land boss Gareth South­gate had named a vastly in­ex­pe­ri­enced squad, in­clud­ing six un­capped play­ers.

None of the new faces were named in the start­ing line-up, but Le­ices­ter’s Ben Chilwell was handed his first start and nearly cre­ated the opener with a fine low cross that Josip Pi­varic did well to pre­vent Ra­heem Ster­ling turn­ing home.

Mario Mandzu­kic scored the win­ning goal to end Eng­land’s World Cup dream 93 days ago in Moscow, but without the Ju­ven­tus striker, who has since re­tired from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball, Croa­tia lacked a fo­cal point up front.

An­drej Kra­maric had the hosts’ best chance, but placed his shot from Ivan Perisic’s cut-back too close to Jor­dan Pick­ford, who made a smart save.

Eng­land’s prow­ess from set-pieces played a huge role in their World Cup suc­cess and again proved a po­tent weapon.

Dier headed Jor­dan Hen­der­son’s corner off the post a minute be­fore the break.

And six min­utes af­ter the break, Kane rose high­est to a Hen­der­son free-kick only to see his loop­ing header come back off the cross­bar.

Croa­tia coach Zlatko Dalic com­plained af­ter a 6-0 thrash­ing at the hands of Spain that his side were still fa­tigued from their sum­mer ex­er­tions and they faded again as Eng­land took con­trol at the start of the sec­ond pe­riod.

— AFP

Eng­land’s Mar­cus Rash­ford (left) vies with Croa­tia’s Josip Pi­varic dur­ing the UEFA Na­tions League match be­tween Croa­tia and Eng­land at Ru­je­vica Sta­dium in Ri­jeka.

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