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.
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They could have headed back across the border savoring an historic victory for Steve Clarke’s side who matched their supposed superiors throughout an absorbing contest.
As England’s anxiety levels increased after the break, Lyndon Dykes had an effort cleared off the line by Reece James while Che Adams slashed a late effort wide.
It was only the fourth time in 115 editions of the world’s oldest soccer rivalry dating back to 1872 that a game ended goalless and the first time ever at Wembley.
England, whose starting XI had an average age of 25 years 31 days -- their youngest ever in a major tournament -- managed only one shot on target, although John Stones did thump a header against the woodwork.
It was a dispiriting evening for manager Gareth Southgate and not even the introduction of Jack Grealish after the interval could unlock the Scots rearguard.
The sight of skipper Harry Kane trudging off to be replaced by Marcus Rashford after a worryingly ineffective performance summed up England’s night.
“Fair result, fair play to Scotland they defended well,” Kane said, though that was doing a disservice to a Scotland outfit who were the better side.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but it’s another point closer to qualification and that’s our ultimate goal.”
England are level on four points with the Czech Republic who they face at Wembley on Tuesday when Scotland and Croatia, who each have one point, meet at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
Scotland will face Croatia with renewed belief after a superb reaction to their 2-0 home defeat by the Czechs.
“Everybody’s buzzing after that,” midfielder Callum McGregor said. “I thought every player was first class, outstanding to a man. We needed that performance to keep us alive in the group.”
While too many of England’s players underperformed, Scotland’s played out of their skins with Chelsea youngster Billy Gilmour outstanding on his first start.