England Held By North Macedonia In Euro Qualifier
Muhammad Irfan Published November 21, 2023 | 09:50 AM
Skopje, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 21st Nov, 2023) England narrowly avoided an embarrassing defeat against North Macedonia as they wrapped up a place among the top seeds at Euro 2024 with a 1-1 draw in Skopje on Monday.
Gareth Southgate's side trailed to Enis Bardhi's first-half strike before Jani Atanasov's own goal gifted the visitors their second-half equaliser at the Tose Proeski Arena.
But whoever England are pitted against, Southgate will know they need a significant improvement on this spluttering display to live up to their billing as one of the favourites to win the Euros.
"I thought that given we had already qualified and everything had been achieved the mentality of the players was excellent," Southgate insisted.
"The quality on the ball was good on a difficult pitch. Just that final pass or finish was difficult to find."
But even beating North Macedonia, 66th in the rankings, proved beyond Southgate's injury-hit side.
The current international break has appeared an unwanted distraction for England players in the midst of draining Premier League and Champions League campaigns.
The ineffective Ollie Watkins, deputising for rested England striker Harry Kane, headed wide when he should have hit the target.
- England frustration -
For all their territorial dominance, England were fortunate not to concede a penalty when Harry Maguire stumbled and clearly shoved Elif Elmas.
Referee Filip Glova waved play on and VAR upheld his decision to North Macedonia's intense frustration.
It looked like accidental contact by Lewis and a theatrical fall from Miovski, yet Glova awarded a penalty after checking the pitchside monitor.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was again playing in a central midfield role rather than the right-back position he occupies for Liverpool.
He nearly equalised with a stinging shot that Dimitrievski tipped over at full-stretch.
As Southgate's frustration mounted, England thought they had equalised two minutes after half-time.
Jack Grealish bundled in Bukayo Saka's cross, but the goal was correctly disallowed by VAR for offside against the Manchester City winger.
Against opponents throwing themselves into tackles with abandon, England had to dig deep before finally getting back on level terms in the 59th minute.
Kane had just come off the bench seconds earlier when he challenged for Phil Foden's corner, forcing Atanasov to divert the ball into his own net.