England's Harry Kane heads the ball during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group D match between England and Scotland at Wembley stadium in London, Friday, June 18, 2021. (Carl Recine /Pool Photo via AP)
LONDON, June 19: Not even with the Premier League’s top scorer could England find a way past Scotland.
Maybe Harry Kane was as much as the problem as the solution.
On his good days, Kane is one of the game’s ultimate goal threats for both Tottenham and England. But the sluggish striker never came close to scoring in the 0-0 draw between the two teams Friday at the European Championship.
The England captain barely even touched the ball, and yet coach Gareth Southgate persisted with him for 74 draining minutes at Wembley Stadium in his 60th game this season for his club and his country.
“It was a tough game,” Kane said. “Scotland defended really well, made great blocks at the right times when we did have chances.”
England defender John Stones had one of those chances when hit the post with a header in the 11th minute, and Mason Mount had another when his shot was deflected wide at the start of the second half.
Scotland’s best opportunity to get the winning goal came when forward Lyndon Dykes had a shot cleared off the line by defender Reece James in the 63rd.
“We have got to look at the whole performance, the use of the ball and review where we can be better,” Southgate said. “So it’s not just about one person. Scotland, I thought, marked him extremely well. With the back five there wasn’t a lot of space.”
There was a shot from Kane in the 59th, but it was tame and was blocked by the defense.
Kane looked as exhausted as England looked devoid of ideas against the dogged and well-marshalled Scots, who lost their Group D opener to the Czech Republic but still have a chance to advance to the round of 16.
“I thought we were unfairly criticized after the game on Monday,” Scotland coach Steve Clarke said. “We worked ever so hard when England had the ball but the great thing is we played when we had the ball and had some chances.”
The English will advance as group winners with a victory on Tuesday against the Czech Republic, which also has four points from two games. Scotland and Croatia, who also meet on Tuesday, have one point each.
The heatwave in London when England opened Euro 2020 by beating Croatia was replaced by a chilly downpour for the 115th meeting with Scotland — and a first 0-0 draw between the neighbors at Wembley.
What also changed from Sunday was the stadium speakers blaring out the Euro 2020 official song, “We Are the People,” to drown out the smattering of boos that again greeted players taking a knee in their anti-racism gesture before kickoff.
For the renewal of soccer’s oldest rivalry there was something of a throwback with Scotland playing two strikers: Dykes and Che Adams.
England’s only changes from the 1-0 win over Croatia were in defense with Kieran Trippier dropped and Kyle Walker not even making the bench. Southgate decided to bring back a specialist left back in Luke Shaw, with James on the right for the technical ability and to rotate the squad.
The back line allowed the opposition far more space, and Stephen O’Donnell found a way through to force a one-handed save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the 30th minute.
“At times we kept the ball superbly well and frustrated them,” Scotland captain Andrew Robertson said, “and on another night we could have come away with more.”
The pandemic-restricted crowd of 22,000, most of them England fans, roared when Jack Grealish was shown on the big screens on the England bench. The clamor was for an injection of his creativity.
Grealish came on for Phil Foden in 63rd, but Scotland wouldn’t buckle. And by the time Southgate made his second and final change — despite being able to make five — Marcus Rashford lacked the time to make an impact as Kane’s replacement.
“We needed a few more runs behind,” Southgate said. “I felt Marcus would give us that energy and had to try to get the win at that point.”
The goal never came, with England managing only one shot on target. No wonder the fourth-ranked team was booed off by its own fans after being held by a team 40 places lower in the FIFA rankings.
“I totally understand their reaction,” Southgate said. “We are expected to beat Scotland. They will be frustrated by that.”