England and Scotland played out a goalless draw at Wembley to leave both countries with their hopes of reaching Euro 2020’s knockout stage very much alive.
The first meeting between the men’s teams in a major tournament since Euro 96 was played out in a typically raucous atmosphere despite only 22,500 fans in attendance – and both sides had big opportunities to win.
Most of the honours must go to Scotland, however, who bounced back from their opening defeat to the Czech Republic at Hampden Park with real resilience and character to fully deserve this important point.
It was The Tartan Army who were elated at the final whistle while England’s players heard the sound of loud jeering from their supporters.
England, who were sluggish and disappointing, should have taken the lead early on when John Stones headed Mason Mount’s corner against the woodwork.
As Scotland settled and improved, England were grateful to Jordan Pickford’s superb save from Stephen O’Donnell and a goal-line clearance from Reece James to divert Lyndon Dykes’ goal-bound shot after the break.
Gareth Southgate’s side, with a win over Croatia in the bag, now have a chance to overtake the Czech Republic and win Group D in their final game while Scotland will chase victory against Croatia at Hampden Park.
Scotland take the Wembley plaudits
Scotland’s players punched the air with delight when the final whistle sounded and they had secured a point that keeps them in the mix going into their final game.
Manager Steve Clarke had his team well-drilled and, once they had survived an uncertain start, they gave as good as they got. The heroes’ welcome they received when they went to thank the rain-sodden Tartan Army at the final whistle was thoroughly deserved.
England had plenty of possession in the second half but this must never be portrayed as a Scottish rearguard action. It was anything but.
Yes, they were forced back for periods but were always positive, on the lookout to attack and it needed that crucial intervention from James to deny Dykes a winner.
And in 20-year-old Billy Gilmour, on his first Scotland start, they had the game’s outstanding performer, the Chelsea’s midfielder showing his class on the ball and a real fighting spirit in the physical challenges. It was an outstanding, mature display.
Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney also showed how much he was missed in that Czech defeat with a powerhouse performance that must give Scotland real hope against Croatia.
Clarke got it right tactically but England counterpart Southgate has questions to ponder. There is no doubt who will be the happier manager.
Kane concern as England falter
England were efficient rather than spectacular in victory against Croatia on Sunday but it was very much a case of job done to set the platform to face the old enemy in a repeat of that Euro 96 encounter.
Instead, England faded badly after a bright start although Raheem Sterling was furious when Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz ignored his pleas for a second-half penalty when he tangled with Andrew Robertson.
England did not deserve victory but they are still in a very healthy position going into their final game.
That does not mean Southgate can be satisfied after what was a very disappointing night – especially as he faces a dilemma he could not have been contemplating before this tournament started.
Captain Harry Kane was poor before his substitution against Croatia on Sunday and was equally anonymous here. He looked sluggish, off the pace and short on threat. It was no surprise when he was replaced by Marcus Rashford with 16 minutes left, even though England were desperately chasing a winner.
In his defence, Kane has been starved of good service. To suggest his place is in question is unthinkable but there can be no doubt Southgate wants and needs a lot more from his world-class captain.
And Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish may now also player a bigger part in the equation, although he could not alter the pattern of this game after he replaced Phil Foden.
England’s fans have made Grealish very much the people’s champion and were chanting his name long before he eventually came on.
Will Southgate bow to their demands and start him against the Czech Republic after an England display so lacking in spark?
England are still in a very good position – but they will need to be so much better than this.
Group D plays to a conclusion on Tuesday, with England hosting the Czech Republic at Wembley and Scotland facing Croatia at Hampden Park. Both games are at 20:00 BST and all four team can still qualify for the last 16.
Source: Ghana News