Cyprus Mail

Croatia hold wasteful England to stalemate in empty stadium

Croatia's Dominik Livakovic in action with England's John Stones

England were held to a 0-0 draw away to World Cup finalistsCroatia after missing several chances in a Nations League top-tier Group 4 clash played behind closed doors on Friday.

The result inside the near-deserted stadium left both sides with one point from two games behind runaway leaders Spain, who have six points and host England in Seville on Monday.

Without any fans present as Croatia continued to serve a crowd ban for racist offences by their fans in Euro 2016 qualifying, the instructions from both benches echoed around the eerily empty ground in a tepid first half at the Rijeka stadium.

The game was built up by some English media as a chance for the visitors to avenge Croatia‘s 2-1 World Cup semi-final win in Russia in July but the game failed to produce any fireworks.

The solitary chance in the opening 45 minutes fell to England midfielder Eric Dier, who glanced his header against the post after a Jordan Henderson corner.

Chants of ‘God Save the Queen’ from a handful of English supporters who had gathered outside the ground seemed to lift the visitors but the woodwork and some dreadful finishing by striker Marcus Rashford denied them a goal.

Striker Harry Kane headed a Henderson free kick against the bar before Manchester United forward Rashford squandered two excellent opportunities in the space of two minutes.

He scuffed a feeble shot at Dominik Livakovic from eight metres when clear on goal and the keeper then denied him again with a superb reflex save from an almost identical position.

Croatia‘s Ivan Perisic forced a good save from Jordan Pickford with a stinging low shot and Ante Rebic, playing in an unfamiliar lone striker role, fired inches wide with a long-range effort for the revamped home side.

England’s Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund’s exciting 18-year old winger, produced a darting run late on after coming off the bench to replace Raheem Sterling and make his international debut before the match fizzled out in the final few minutes.

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