England held to a Goaless draw by Slovenia
England interim manager Southgate had watched the national team deliver a stuttering performance against Malta during his first game in charge and he saw them regress to something resembling those abject displays in the summer in his second.
Had it not been for Joe Hart, this would have been a rare defeat for England in a qualifying campaign. Instead, it was a first failure to win in 15 matches.
This most certainly was not a new era and the sight of this young side playing so tentatively is a clear sign that they continue to nurse that Icelandic hangover. They have now scored four goals in five games, a very poor return.
Hart saved them here, overcoming his own early season difficulties to rescue his colleagues from their apparent desire to self-destruct and repelling a quite stunning header from Jasmin Kurtic. Hart excelled in making the save, pushing the ball against the bar with his left hand before flapping it away with his right.
If it felt as though the curtain had fallen on Rooney’s England career after that utterly absorbing press conference the previous evening, here, suddenly, was the encore. England needed some much-needed composure and leadership, not to mention a bit of inspiration.
Rooney played in deep-lying midfield role against Malta but here he was in the more advanced position he used to occupy with relish, in behind the striker. And he went close with one effort that whistled only inches wide.
Indeed, had Daniel Sturridge not been so selfish Rooney almost certainly would have scored only four minutes after coming on. A simple square ball was all Rooney required. Sturridge, however, opted to go it alone.
Out of respect, Jordan Henderson immediately handed Rooney the armband, no doubt relieved to offload the responsibility after a less than convincing display prior to the captain’s arrival from the bench. And the sight of Rooney calming an ugly situation that was sparked initially by Gary Cahill’s foul challenge, but escalated when something appeared to upset Jesse Lingard, underlined the value he still has to the group.
There was cause for encouragement, most notably in the performance of John Stones.
But the first half ended without England managing a single effort on target and the match finished with Slovenia’s goalkeeper required to make only one proper save, from Lingard.
Ultimately England were fortunate not to lose. They were also lucky that Slovenia’s best player, Kevin Kampl, decided to adopt the role of ‘deserter’.
But a penny for the thoughts of Dan Ashworth, the FA technical director who watched his third manager in little more than three months from the press box.
England are still two points clear at the top of their World Cup qualification group but one imagines Ashworth and the FA hierarchy will remain undecided about whether Southgate is the right man. Off the pitch he has not put a foot wrong. On it, however, he has yet to make an impact.
That, of course, may not be fair when he has taken the job essentially as emergency cover.
‘It has been an incredibly difficult 10 days,’ he said afterwards, and understandably so. He also blamed the quality of the pitch for some of the mistakes, a valid argument. But the second part of his audition — the qualifier against Scotland and a friendly with Spain — is one he must now nail.
In this contest there were various issues that would have concerned him, not just a degree of recklessness but the fact that Henderson and Eric Dier were unable to command the midfield.
It was a blind back-pass from Dier that nearly resulted in a goal for the home side. Dier succeeded only in sending Roman Bezjak clear, and while Hart did well to make the initial save, only the width of the post denied Kurtic before Bezjak could not react swiftly enough to the rebound and sent his shot wide
It was certainly enough to have Southgate on his feet. Dier’s booking minutes later did nothing to settle an England midfield that, at this stage at least, appeared to be lacking a bit of leadership. Southgate did not look amused.
Rooney, watching from the bench, must have been itching to get on. The fickle England supporters, having already called for ‘justice for Allardyce’, certainly seemed to be favouring his inclusion by chanting his name after 30 minutes of a disjointed opening half.
Slovenia very nearly scored moments into the second half, Ilicic executing a delightful one-two to skip past Stones only to then cut the ball back into space when he probably should have shot.
But the hosts went closer still from the corner that followed, with Hart making his quite stunning double save to deny Kurtic. If the ball looked dangerously close to crossing the line, it was not given.
Southgate responded by making a change up front, sending on Andros Townsend for the relatively ineffective Theo Walcott.
A back-pass from Henderson would nevertheless prove dangerous, with Hart again having to step up to block the shot from the rapidly advancing Ilicic.
Southgate did not have Allardyce’s lucky coin but he should be thankful for his goalkeeper.
Hart (left) took a couple of minutes out for medical assistance but was able to carry on following his brilliant double save
So its 3 games played and England sit on 7points.. 2points ahead of lithuania and Slovenia both on 5points. England’s next game is on the 11th of November against Scotland.
culled from dailymail.co.uk