LONDON: England debutants Jordan Pickford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek caught the eye as Gareth Southgate’s injured-ravaged side played out a 0-0 draw with world champions Germany in Friday’s Wembley friendly.
Everton goalkeeper Pickford, 23, made a number of smart saves, while 21-year-old Chelsea midfielder Loftus-Cheek, who is on loan at Crystal Palace, produced an assured display in the number 10 shirt.
It was only the second time in seven matches that England had avoided defeat against Germany at Wembley, with the other game a draw in the semi-finals of Euro 96 that culminated in a penalty shootout loss.
Gareth Southgate was the fall guy back then, but the England manager had more to smile about on this occasion, albeit despite a first-half injury to Phil Jones further limiting his options ahead of Tuesday’s friendly with Brazil.
“In the first half there were a couple of really goods saves from Jordan. We caused our own problems with a couple of those,” said Southgate.
“But we posed our own questions and I thought we used the ball well.”
On Loftus-Cheek, he added: “He did everything I know he can do. He is capable of anything. He will gain huge confidence from it.”
Joachim Loew’s Germany, for whom RB Leipzig full-back Marcel Halstenberg made his debut, came closest to scoring when winger Leroy Sane rattled the crossbar midway through the first half.
The Confederations Cup winners missed out on an eighth successive win, but they have now gone 20 games unbeaten ahead of their year-ending home game with France — the last team to beat them — on Tuesday.
“Both teams were very good and played well defensively. There weren’t many counter-attacks,” said Loew.
“In the first half we had three or four good attacks. Our defence was well organised around Mats Hummels. In the second half the game drifted away and there weren’t many chances.
“Both coaches tried to test players and bring on substitutes, which affected the flow of play.”
England’s injury blight obliged Southgate to name debutants Pickford, Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham in a tender starting XI and he quickly found himself having to pitch another newcomer into the fray.
In scenes that will have caused consternation to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, Jones went down gesturing to his heavily strapped left thigh and had to come off, with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez taking over.
Germany already looked the more dangerous side by that point, with Sane showing signs of his superlative Manchester City form by crashing a shot against Pickford’s bar from a position on the right.
Pickford, promoted after Jack Butland broke a finger in training, twice showed textbook technique to thwart Timo Werner with one-handed saves, Jones heading Sane’s follow-up off the line on the first occasion.
England began to assert themselves as half-time neared, Abraham seeing a shot drift just wide via a deflection off Antonio Rudiger and Jamie Vardy lobbing Marc-Andre ter Stegen, only for Matthias Ginter to head clear.
Vardy went closer early in the second half when he met Kieran Trippier’s cross with a firm downward header, but Ter Stegen got down to his right to paw the ball away.
Loftus-Cheek became more influential as the game wore on, drifting away from challenges and using the ball intelligently, but neither he nor anyone else could provide the spark required to break the deadlock.
England should have won it at the death when Harry Maguire’s back-post header from Marcus Rashford’s free-kick fell to substitute Jesse Lingard six yards from goal, but he wastefully skied his shot over the bar. – AFP