Hart stars as Slovenia hold England
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP):
England required a series of brilliant saves from Joe Hart to salvage a 0-0 draw at Slovenia in World Cup qualifying, with the dropping of captain Wayne Rooney failing to have the desired effect yesterday.
The goalkeeper tipped Jasmin Kurtic's header on to the bar off a corner early in the second half with the best of his saves, and rushed from his line to keep out two one-on-one chances after sloppy England back-passes were intercepted.
"I was asked to do quite a bit," said Hart, who clattered into the goal frame when acrobatically denying Kurtic. "My body is in absolute pieces; I'm going to struggle to get up tomorrow."
England's 100 per cent start to Group F, after wins over Slovakia and Malta, ended on a night that saw Rooney begin on the bench in a big call from interim manager Gareth Southgate. Rooney, who has been struggling for form for club and country this season, came on in the 73rd minute when Slovenia were controlling the game and curled a shot wide with his only chance.
It was the first time England had failed to win a qualifier for a major tournament in 15 games.
Like Rooney - who has also been dropped by Manchester United - Hart has had a tough season, losing his place at Manchester City and getting loaned out to Italian side Torino. He was also criticised for some displays during the European Championship, which England exited embarrassingly at the last-16 stage at the hands of Iceland.
But he produced probably his best display in an England jersey in Ljubljana, saving his team which struggled to create chances or keep possession against high-energy, well-drilled opposition.