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England escape with a point from Slovenia

Joe Hart

Goalkeeper Joe Hart is on loan at Italian side Torino from Manchester City

England were thankful to the brilliance of goalkeeper Joe Hart and large slices of good fortune as they escaped with a draw from a torrid World Cup qualifier in Slovenia.

Hart, on loan at Torino in Serie A after becoming surplus to requirements at Manchester City, saved interim manager Gareth Southgate from an embarrassing loss to the team ranked 67th in the world with a succession of outstanding saves.

He twice denied Josip Ilicic when he was played in by poor backpasses from Eric Dier and captain Jordan Henderson – but the highlight was a world-class reflex save when he turned Jasmin Kurtic’s header on to the crossbar seconds after half-time.

Kurtic also hit the post in the first half as England’s three-year run of wins in qualifiers came to an end.

They deserved no more as Slovenia were the more dangerous side and even the introduction of Wayne Rooney, dropped by Southgate, for the last 18 minutes could not rouse a disappointing England, who at least still top Group F.

Rooney had a shot just wide and Jesse Lingard forced a fine save from Jan Oblak late on – but an England win would have been harsh on the hosts.

  • Relive the action from Ljubljana

Tough night for Southgate

Southgate’s bold decision to drop captain Rooney and the measured manner in which he handled the pre-match inquisition on his move drew many plaudits.

Once the action started in Slovenia, Southgate was at the centre of England and international football’s real world as they struggled to match the pace, verve and energy of the home side.

Southgate has four games to make his case to be Sam Allardyce’s full-time successor and after a colourless win against Malta at Wembley, this was a tough night as England struggled desperately for large phases of the game.

He can at least say he has kept England unbeaten and on course in what should ultimately be a comfortable World Cup qualification from Group F – but there has been nothing impressive yet.

To put Southgate’s very brief tenure in context, England’s opening win in Slovakia came courtesy of a 95th-minute winner from Adam Lallana at the end of a largely wretched performance under Allardyce after the failures of Euro 2016.

Southgate is working with a squad in transition and recovery after the European Championship – but he will be hoping for much better in his remaining two matches, a qualifier against hapless Scotland at Wembley on 11 November and the subsequent friendly against Spain.

Redemption for Hart

Hart has suffered the most traumatic period of his career after two high-profile errors against Wales and Iceland in England’s Euro 2016 debacle and being bundled through the exit at Manchester City by new manager Pep Guardiola.

It was redemption time for Hart, revitalised on loan at Torino in Serie A, as the 29-year-old produced a magnificent performance to spare England’s embarrassment in Ljubljana.

Hart looked back to his best, rescuing Dier and Henderson when dreadful backpasses let in Ilicic.

The best moment came seconds after the restart when he produced arguably one of the finest saves of his career to claw Kurtic’s header on to the bar before reacting in an instant to clear the ball to safety. It was a world-class moment.

For a player whose cast-iron confidence – and indeed his credibility – had been questioned after his struggles in France this summer, this was compelling evidence that he can still be a high-class keeper.

He was also seen going among his nervous, unsettled colleagues offering encouragement deep into the second half. Is this the night the real Joe Hart returned to England?

More to follow.

Live Text

Match ends, Slovenia 0, England 0.

Second Half ends, Slovenia 0, England 0.

Andros Townsend (England) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Roman Bezjak (Slovenia).

Andros Townsend (England) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Roman Bezjak (Slovenia).

Foul by Marcus Rashford (England).

Aljaz Struna (Slovenia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Aljaz Struna (Slovenia) is shown the yellow card.

Jesse Lingard (England) is shown the yellow card.

Gary Cahill (England) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Gary Cahill (England).

Josip Ilicic (Slovenia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Rok Kronaveter (Slovenia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Eric Dier (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Rok Kronaveter (Slovenia).

Foul by John Stones (England).

Rok Kronaveter (Slovenia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Wayne Rooney (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Nik Omladic (Slovenia).

Substitution, Slovenia. Nik Omladic replaces Rene Krhin.

Danny Rose (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Rok Kronaveter (Slovenia).

Corner, England. Conceded by Jan Oblak.

Attempt saved. Jesse Lingard (England) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Wayne Rooney.

Substitution, England. Marcus Rashford replaces Daniel Sturridge.

Attempt missed. Wayne Rooney (England) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.

Attempt saved. Daniel Sturridge (England) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jesse Lingard with a through ball.

Attempt missed. Danny Rose (England) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Gary Cahill.

Corner, England. Conceded by Miral Samardzic.

Substitution, England. Wayne Rooney replaces Dele Alli.

Danny Rose (England) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Roman Bezjak (Slovenia).

Attempt missed. Rok Kronaveter (Slovenia) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right following a corner.

Corner, Slovenia. Conceded by Kyle Walker.

Corner, Slovenia. Conceded by Joe Hart.

Attempt saved. Josip Ilicic (Slovenia) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

Hand ball by Rok Kronaveter (Slovenia).

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Substitution, Slovenia. Miha Mevlja replaces Bostjan Cesar because of an injury.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37538756