Underwhelming, disappointing, frustrating. Three words which describe perfectly what England supporters were subjected to in the 0-0 World Cup Qualifying draw away to Slovenia on Tuesday night. In the intimidating Ljubljana atmosphere, England huffed and puffed and were indebted to the brilliance of goalkeeper Joe Hart, deemed surplus to requirements at Manchester City and now out on loan at Torino, who made a string of important saves to ensure England escaped with a point.
Hart denied Josip Ilicic twice, when he was played in by miscued backpasses from Eric Dier and captain on the night Jordan Henderson – but the pick of the bunch was a superb reflex save when he turned Jasmin Kurtic’s header on to the crossbar seconds after half-time, a free header from a corner which should have been prevented.
Kurtic also struck the woodwork in the first half, Slovenia looking the more likely to score throughout the contest and even the introduction of Wayne Rooney, dropped by Gareth Southgate for the match in Ljubljana failed to ignite England, who were disappointing on the night as their three year run of qualifying wins met its end, but they still sit top of Group F with a two-point cushion.
Amongst England’s best opportunities, Rooney fizzed a shot wide of goal and Jesse Lingard brought the best out of Jan Oblak near the end.
So who stuttered on the night and who impressed in England’s goal-less draw?
Hart- 9: England’s man of the match on the night after a string of superb saves, his best coming just after the break.
Walker- 5.5: Didn’t break forward anywhere near as much as normal and far too often left gaps at the back.
Stones- 5: Uncharacteristically sloppy and seemed uncomfortable in defending when the Slovenes came forward.
Cahill- 5: Underwhelming and failed to step up as a leader in Rooney’s absence. Never quite got onto the same wavelength as Stones.
Rose- 5.5: Broke forward on a couple of occasions but much like Walker left far too much space in behind.
Dier- 4: A rare poor performance from the Tottenham man, after a night fraught with giving away possession too easily. A poor backpass almost gifted Slovenia a goal.
Henderson- 5: Wasn’t the engine we saw in the game against Malta but did at least try to get England going forward. Didn’t quite step up as leader in the absence of Rooney.
Alli- 6: Creative and one of England’s outlets on the night but his final ball was lacking.
Lingard- 5: Full of running but didn’t get on the ball anywhere near as much compared to the Malta match. He fared better in a more central role in Ljubljana following Alli’s withdrawal.
Walcott- 4: A quiet, below-par performance. Replaced by Townsend.
Sturridge- 5: He did have a couple of half chances but snatched at everything that came his way. Held onto possession for far too long and raised questions over his decision-making, also lacked a final ball and was found wanting in his solo efforts.
Townsend- 6.5: Positive after coming on and had far more influence than Walcott.
Rooney- 6: Tried to take the game to the hosts but dragged a shot wide of goal.
Rashford- 6: Again positive after his introduction but arrived on the scene too late to make a telling difference.
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