England toiled to a 1-1 attract North Macedonia as their Euro 2024 qualifying marketing campaign got here to a lacklustre shut.
Gareth Southgate’s aspect secured qualification to subsequent summer season’s finals in Germany final month and a forgettable attract Skopje was at the least sufficient to verify them among the many prime seeds for December’s draw.
Debutant Rico Lewis endured an evening to neglect on the Tose Proeski Arena as he conceded a controversial first-half penalty which Jordan Pickford saved earlier than Enis Bardhi turned residence the rebound.
Captain Harry Kane got here off the bench and performed a component within the leveller as Jani Atanasov scored an personal aim however England didn’t discover a winner.
England confirmed six modifications from the group that limped to a 2-0 win over Malta on Friday night time as Kyle Walker captained his nation for the primary time – but it surely was one other disjointed show from a group Southgate is aiming to result in the highest of the world rankings.
Declan Rice was amongst these to come back again into the beginning line-up however, having known as on England to conclude their unbeaten 2023 with a “bang” it as an alternative ended with a whimper.
England have been as toothless within the first half as that they had been within the drab victory over Malta on Friday night time, though Rice did come near opening the scoring with a low strike that cannoned off the bottom of the submit.
A tame header from Ollie Watkins adopted earlier than the hosts began to get a foothold, primarily as a consequence of England’s personal poor defending. Midway by way of the half and Harry Maguire gifted possession to Bojan Miovski, who slipped in Eljif Elmas.
Manchester United defender Maguire then appeared to barge Elmas off the ball contained in the field however no penalty was forthcoming regardless of the protestations of the house aspect.
However, Macedonia could be awarded a penalty 10 minutes earlier than the break, Lewis’s stray hand catching Miovski as he tried to move clear, with referee Filip Glova pointing to the spot after consulting his pitchside VAR monitor.
Pickford made a nice cease to maintain out Bardhi’s spot-kick however the Macedonia skipper was alive sufficient to show residence the rebound.
England had been as blunt because the aspect that toiled in opposition to Malta three days in the past and it took till first-half stoppage time for the guests to have a shot on course, albeit a tame effort from Lewis.
Trent Alexander-Arnold then stung the palms of Stole Dimitrievski and, within the final motion of the half, England have been left calling for a penalty of their very own as Maguire stooped to fulfill the ensuing nook and was caught by Elmas’s boot – this time, although, Glova was unmoved.
England thought they have been degree lower than two minutes after the restart however Jack Grealish noticed a close-range end dominated out for offside following one other prolonged VAR examine.
Watkins, given an opportunity to as soon as once more present he has the capabilities to be the back-up to Kane on the Euros, had an ineffectual night and was changed by the skipper for the ultimate quarter of the competition.
Kane – who was lacking from the beginning XI of a aggressive England recreation for the primary time in over two years – was instantly concerned, his run to fulfill Phil Foden’s nook noticed him tracked by Atanasov, who inadvertently deflected the set-piece into his personal aim.
Southgate shuffled his pack as Marcus Rashford, Cole Palmer and Kalvin Phillips got here on within the closing levels however, aside from a wayward free-kick from the previous, there have been no actual probabilities for England to seal victory.
Macedonia head coach Blagoja Milevski had stated on the eve of the competition that his aspect would present a “new face” from the one thrashed 7-0 at Old Trafford in June and so they definitely put England’s nostril out of joint right here.
Southgate will name for an improved efficiency within the two March friendlies when Brazil and Belgium go to Wembley but it surely was in the end one other profitable, and unbeaten, qualification marketing campaign beneath the 53-year-old.