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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Euro 2020: England given reality check by gutsy Scotland in stalemate

Skipper Harry Kane again lacked sharpness and was replaced by Marcus Rashford with 15 minutes remaining.

By: Reuters |
Updated: June 19, 2021 11:21:59 am
England's Marcus Rashford comes on as a substitute to replace Harry Kane. (Reuters)

England’s ambitions to be crowned kings of Europe got a cold dose of reality as they were held to a 0-0 draw by a gutsy Scotland side in a Euro 2020 ‘Battle of Britain’ on Friday.

Victory for Gareth Southgate’s England side in the eagerly-awaited Group D clash at a rain-swept Wembley Stadium would have sealed a place in the last 16 but they produced a nervous performance against the Scots who kept their own hopes alive.

Scotland’s Tartan Army had swept south into London for the first match against the Auld Enemy in a tournament finals since England’s 2-0 Wembley win at Euro ’96.

They could have headed back across the border savouring an historic victory with Steve Clarke’s side matching their supposed superiors throughout an absorbing contest.Scotland rode their luck at times with John Stones heading against the woodwork early on for England but almost scored themselves with Stephen O’Donnell and Lyndon Dykes going close before Che Adams spurned a golden opportunity.

It was the Scotland fans in the 22,000 crowd who sang loudest at the end as the draw means their team could still reach the last 16 by beating Croatia in their final group game in Glasgow on Tuesday.England failed to build on their opening 1-0 win over Croatia and sit second, level on four points with the Czech Republic who they face in their last game on the same day.

PERFECT STAGE

When the heavens opened again shortly before kick off it felt like the perfect stage for Scotland’s ‘Bravehearts’ to upset the odds on the Auld Enemy’s turf and Steve Clarke’s men rose to the occasion.

Che Adams, one of four changes from the side that started in the 2-0 home defeat by the Czech Republic, almost drew first blood for the Scots in the fourth minute when his goalbound shot from O’Donnell’s cut back struck Stones.England responded with Stones left completely unmarked from a Mason Mount corner to thump a header against the upright with goalkeeper David Marshall a bystander.

The hosts cranked up the pressure and Mount wasted a glorious chance after good work by Raheem Sterling.

England lacked control, however, and back came Scotland with the impressive O’Donnell forcing England keeper Jordan Pickford into the game’s first meaningful save with a back-post volley.

For all England’s territorial superiority they were crying out for the dribbling skills of Jack Grealish and they failed to land a shot on target in the first half of a match at Wembley for the first time since 2017.Scotland, on the other hand, reached the interval growing in belief that something special was brewing.

Southgate resisted the temptation to play his cards at halftime and England began the second period in positive fashion with Mount’s fiercely-hit shot forcing Marshall into his first save of the night.

Reece James, one of two changes to the England side that beat Croatia in searing temperatures on Sunday, then lifted a shot over after a patient spell of England possession.

It was all too frantic for the hosts though and England suffered another scare when James headed a Lyndon Dykes effort off the line and shortly afterwards Grealish entered the fray, replacing Phil Foden.

Skipper Harry Kane again lacked sharpness and was replaced by Marcus Rashford with 15 minutes remaining.

England piled on some late pressure but Scotland clung on for a deserved share of the spoils.

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