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Slovenia 0 England 0: Hart to the rescue as Rooney-less visitors stutter

Gareth Southgate's decision to drop much-maligned captain Wayne Rooney did little to improve England as an attacking force as they relied on Joe Hart to secure a 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw in Slovenia.

Rooney's ineffective display in Saturday's 2-0 win over Malta was the latest in a long string of underwhelming showings and ultimately brought about his omission from the starting XI, but England were not much better in his absence, with Hart rescuing them several times.

Eric Dier, Rooney's replacement on the day, almost single-handedly inspired an opening goal for Slovenia early on, as his poor back pass resulted in Jasmin Kurtic striking the post after a good save by Hart.

England gradually took control of possession without looking particularly threatening and had a lucky escape again in the 48th minute – a combination of the excellent Hart and the crossbar denying Kurtic.

Hart also had to spare the blushes of Jordan Henderson - captain in Rooney's absence - deep into the second half as he ensured England held on for a point, taking their Group F tally to seven from three matches.

Southgate justified his decision to drop Rooney by highlighting the need to add extra bite into the England midfield and that increased intensity brought about their first chance.
Dele Alli robbed the hosts of the ball and charged forward before playing Daniel Sturridge into the area, only for the forward's first touch to give Jan Oblak the chance to palm the ball behind.
England were lucky to escape unscathed in the 10th minute, though.
Hart bailed Dier out by rushing out to deny Roman Bezjak after the striker pounced on a weak back pass, but the goalkeeper could only watch a few seconds later as Kurtic struck the post from 20 yards.

The visitors did slowly adapt to Slovenia's forceful pressing and controlled possession for the remainder of the first half.

But the closest they went to finding the net was a tame 25-yard Gary Cahill effort that was deflected past the left-hand post.

Slovenia began the second half with renewed focus and had England panicking again within a couple of minutes.

A brilliant Josip Ilicic run produced a corner from which Bostjan Cesar forced another set-piece as a result of a fine Hart save.

And the Torino goalkeeper was called into action again from the second corner, acrobatically tipping Kurtic's header on to the crossbar. 

Slovenia looked far more purposeful in attack and should have scored 21 minutes from time, but Hart again saved England, as he thwarted Ilicic with a one-on-one stop after Henderson played a poor back pass.

Rooney was introduced from the bench shortly after and saw a controlled 25-yard effort go just wide in the 79th minute, before his Manchester United team-mate Jsse Lingard drew a strong save from Oblak.

But ultimately both goalkeepers were too good to be beaten in a game that Slovenia will likely see as a missed opportunity to claim a surprise victory.


Key Opta Stats:

- England are unbeaten in their last 32 World Cup/European Championship qualifying matches (W24 D8).
- Slovenia have yet to beat England in their five meetings on the international stage (D1 L4).
- This result was England's first 0-0 draw in a qualifier since their clash with Ukraine in September 2013.
- It is also the first time England have dropped points in a qualifier since that match against Ukraine in 2013.
- England mustered just three shots on target; their lowest in a competitive game since their contest with Costa Rica at World Cup 2014 (1).
- It is the first time the opposition has had more shots than England in a competitive game since Montenegro in March 2013.