England held to a goalless draw by resolute Scotland

The Scottish defence repelled their much-fancied hosts to earn an honourable 0-0 draw in Group D.

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The first meeting between the two oldest rivals in football in a major tournament since Euro 96 ended in a goalless draw, despite the boisterous atmosphere inside a half-filled Wembley Arena. Both England and Scotland had a couple of big opportunities each but failed to convert them on a rainy evening in London.

England had the first and best chance of the night 10 minutes into the first half, as John Stones rose high to meet a corner but saw his effort hit the post. They were later indebted to goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who produced a superb save to keep out Stephen O’Donnell.

After the break, England dominated possession but failed to find any attacking fluency as the Scots defended stoutly and produced a few counters. From one of these, Lyndon Dykes hooked a shot goalward but Reece James reacted smartly to head off the line. Scotland then survived a goalmouth scramble in their box in the last minute to earn a precious point.

The group stage meeting between these two traditional foes, who played the first ever international football match in 1872, was considered notable largely for their long shared history. After a steady 1-0 victory over Croatia in their opening game, England looked way too good on paper for Scotland, who were coming off a disappointing 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic.

Gareth Southgate made two changes to the English starting XI, with the full-backs Luke Shaw and Reece James replacing Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier. Scotland’s Steve Clarke made four changes, bringing in Che Adams, Callum McGregor, Kieran Tierney and Billy Gilmour, who made his full international debut.

The game got off to a fairly open start, with both teams creating early chances. In the 6th minute, O’Donnell found Adams who hit a first-time shot across goal that was vitally blocked by John Stones. The Manchester City defender then nearly opened the scoring at the other end in the 11th minute. He was unmarked as he leapt to head an outswinging corner from Mason Mount, but thumped his header off the inside of the post when he really should have scored.

At this stage, Scotland looked slightly uncertain and England should have pressed home their advantage. But their passing was not quick or incisive enough and they allowed their opponents to grow into the game. Scotland seemed to adapt quicker to the slippery conditions, with the ball zipping about on the wet turf.

They nearly scored in the 30th minute, when left-wing-back Andy Robertson played in the overlapping Tierney who floated a cross towards the far post. The other wing-back O’Donnell waited for the ball to drop and cracked an excellent volley at goal. Pickford had to get down smartly to push the ball away with his right hand and Adams put the rebound over the bar.

Neither team had any clear-cut chances after that and they went in at half-time with Scotland the much happier team. England had to suffer the ignominy of being booed by their own fans as they trudged off.

Mount was the one England player who looked bright in attack in the first half, and he kept going after the break. In the 48th minute, the ball broke to him on the left-hand corner of the Scotland penalty area and he whistled a powerful low shot at the near post that was well saved by the veteran David Marshall in goal. England were looking lively and Harry Kane played a good pass in the 55th minute to the feet of Reece James, whose shot from the edge of the area flew just over the bar.

Scotland replied almost immediately. Lyndon Dykes’ shot from 20 yards only hit Stones, but the ball fell to Dykes’ fellow striker Adams whose shot on the turn was again blocked heroically by Stones. The Scottish backline then repelled a series of attacks, before another big chance fell to Dykes. A 62nd minute corner ricocheted around the England box and the QPR striker did well to hook a shot goalwards. Pickford was beaten, but James ran back towards goal and cleared smartly off the line.

England needed a change to freshen things up, and Southgate brought on crowd favourite Jack Grealish to replace the disappointing Phil Foden. Grealish showed flashes of skill and composure on the ball but was unable to break through. Captain Kane was next to be withdrawn after another ineffective display in which he looked well off the pace. He is yet to have a shot on target in the tournament and was replaced, somewhat surprisingly, by left-winger Marcus Rashford in the 74th minute.

Minutes later, Che Adams missed another chance as he sliced a half-volley well wide at the far post. There was then a penalty appeal by the largely invisible Raheem Sterling after a challenge in the box by Robertson, but neither the referee nor VAR were interested.

There was still time for a Sunday league-style goalmouth scramble in the dying moments as several players piled onto a loose ball in the Scotland box, with John McGinn finally booting it clear. As the final whistle blew, Scotland players punched the air in delight after a heroic display against a team 40 places above them in the FIFA rankings.

England were poor, both tactically and individually, with several key players like Kane, Foden and Sterling ineffective, leaving their manager with much to ponder about. Scotland, on the other hand, had heroes all over the pitch. The back three of Scott McTominay, Grant Hanley and Tierney, who made a successful return after injury, were impenetrable and were ably supported by the wing-backs O’Donnell and Robertson. McGinn was his usual combative self in the middle of the park, snapping into tackles with relish, while Dykes and Adams combined well upfront.

But the real star of the show was Billy Gilmour, the 20-year-old Chelsea midfielder who put in a performance oozing class and confidence, especially in the first half, that belied his lack of experience at this level. Subbed off in the latter stages after fading slightly, he was loudly acclaimed by the Tartan Army in the stands and deservedly won Player of the Match.

The result was hardly a horrible one for England, who drew level on four points with group leaders Czech Republic, after their earlier draw with Croatia. Both look likely to progress and will meet in their last group stage match to decide who tops the group. But England need to avoid performances like this if they are to make it deep into the tournament.

Scotland’s first point of the tournament sets up a do-or-die encounter with Croatia, who also have one point. Whichever side wins that one will probably qualify as one of the four best third-placed teams. The resilience of Scotland against their old foes means no one will be counting them out against the 2018 World Cup finalists.

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