A lacklustre England side laboured to a goalless draw against the USA in World Cup Group B at the Al Bayt Stadium on Friday night.
Gareth Southgate’s side demonstrated none of the attacking proficiency that saw them hit Iran for six on the opening day, while the USA’s pressing and stellar defensive work arguably deserved more than just a point.
The first meaningful chance of the game went to England in the 10th minute as Harry Kane’s shot was blocked by Walker Zimmerman from close range, but there was very little else for the Three Lions to cheer.
The USA press suffocated Southgate’s side, whereas in contrast, the England press was bypassed with relative ease by Gregg Berhalter’s men, who fashioned several first-half chances.
With 26 minutes on the clock, Timothy Weah sent a ball into the box for Weston McKennie to meet – the Juventus man had drifted into space unmarked but could only send a wild effort over the top.
Seven minutes later, Christian Pulisic hit the bar from a tight angle as the USA started to turn the screw, and he also shouldered wide from a Sergino Dest cross in the 43rd minute before England suddenly upped the tempo.
Just before the break, Bukayo Saka blazed a first-time effort over the top under pressure from several blue shirts, while Mason Mount also forced Matt Turner into a strong save down to his right as Southgate’s men ended the half strongly.
Where that attacking impetus was in the rest of the first half is anyone’s guess, and four minutes into the second half, McKennie fired well over the top once again following a quick USA break.
The Stars and Stripes showed no signs of letting up in the second half, as England continued to struggle for creativity and had to survive a succession of Pulisic corners, with Harry Maguire heading clear on all three occasions.
Southgate waited 68 minutes before altering things – sacrificing Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham for Jack Grealish and Jordan Henderson – with Turner still living comfortably in the USA goal.
The Arsenal man was finally called into action in the 87th minute, with Marcus Rashford trying to curl one into the top corner from the left but only finding the gloves of Turner.
Only four minutes were added on at the end of the second half, and Maguire won another header from a corner at the correct end of the field in the first, but his effort hit the ground before bobbling up into Turner’s grasp.
Kane had a gilt-edged opportunity to win the game right at the death for England after connecting with a Luke Shaw free kick, but his header flashed wide of the goal as the game ended without the net rippling once.
England remain top of Group B on four points ahead of their showdown with Wales on Tuesday, while the USA will aim to pip Iran to one of the top two spots in four days’ time.