Leggy Harry Kane and the return of Kieran Tierney: Where England struggled... and Scotland flourished

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·5-min read
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Harry Kane is substituted - AFP
Harry Kane is substituted - AFP

England will be disappointed and Scotland elated after playing out a 0-0 draw at Wembley in their second Euro 2020 Group D clash.

Here, our Chief Football Correspondent Jason Burt breaks down where Gareth Southgate's side failed to meet the mark - and the areas in which their opponents made it difficult.

Harry Kane looked leggy

The focus will understandably be on the England captain but, first, it has to be said that the service to him was awful. Even so, if Kane was double-marked against Croatia then he worryingly struggled with the physical one-on-one battle with Norwich City’s Grant Hanley.

So much so, in fact, that Kane pushed to the left to try and go up against Scott McTominay – who was also formidable - or dropped deep, as he often does, to attempt to involve himself in the play which also did not work as Scotland defended with a low block and prevented players from getting in behind.

Kane had just 10 touches in the first-half, the fewest of any player, and just one in the Scotland penalty area and it did not get any better for him.

When Kane finally had the chance to run he was pulled back by Billy Gilmour with a clever tactical foul. Kane was increasingly isolated with the wide attackers unable to provide but he also looked sluggish and could not impose himself. Hanley continued to dominate and it was no surprise that, for the second game in a row, Kane was replaced.

England’s slow build-up

Scotland had 40 per cent possession but they had far more purpose with 11 shots to England’s nine. Firstly they used the occasion to emphasise it was a battle from the first minute with Lyndon Dykes’s robust challenge on Luke Shaw. Then they maintained their intensity and physical levels and kept the ball well. And thirdly they attacked aggressively.

By contrast England were safe and cautious. They played in front of Scotland allowing them to funnel back into a defensive five. It was impossible to break the lines. It did not help that the England full-backs failed to push on although Reece James was clearly occupied by the danger down his flank. As a consequence the ball was not played into Raheem Sterling and, in particular, Phil Foden who were unwilling to run at defenders when they had the chance. When England did pass it was slow and purposeful. Scotland’s midfield three worked prodigiously hard while the fact they also defended in a low block made it much more difficult for Kalvin Phillips to break forward.

Gareth Southgate too conservative with his substitutions

Having suggested that England might be prepared to use all five substitutes available to them in games in this tournament Southgate proved far too conservative with his changes. There is no doubt that England have one of the strongest squads and yet the manager limited himself to just two replacements by bringing on Jack Grealish for Phil Foden on the 63rd minute and, later, Marcus Rashford for Harry Kane. And that despite the fact that his players were clearly tiring badly – as were Scotland’s - and he had far more firepower on the bench. Was he too cautious? Unfortunately, yes. The changes also did not alter the shape. They were like-for-like. There was no difference in tactics or an attempt to pose a fresh problem for Scotland. Southgate kept his midfield three who had been dominated.

Grealish comes on in the second-half - Getty Images
Grealish comes on in the second-half - Getty Images

Return of Kieran Tierney

There were two key decisions made by Scotland coach Steve Clarke among the four changes from the defeat against the Czech Republic: being able to bring back Kieran Tierney and giving 20-year-old Billy Gilmour his first start. Both were outstanding.

The return to fitness of Tierney provided Scotland with a completely different dimension. It meant they could build from the back while his combination play with Andrew Robertson at left wing-back was always going to be Scotland’s greatest weapon and so it proved.

The pair linked up to create Scotland’s best chance of the first-half which left Reece James, such an impressive recovery defender, completely exposed. For the opening, Tierney overlapped down the left and was picked out by Robertson, who cut inside James and crossed for Stephen O’Donnell whose volley back across goal was superbly pushed out by Jordan Pickford. There was also Tierney’s mobility, bravery and calmness in possession. He was given licence to break forward and help press the England midfielders and even turned up on the right.


Che Adams finding space

The biggest strength of the Southampton striker is his ability to drop in cleverly and find space. He is a relentless runner. It happened time and again with England’s centre-halves reluctant to track him and not least because Lyndon Dykes was winning the aerial battle. It created difficulties also for Declan Rice with Adams in behind the England midfielder who already had his hands full.

The problem is Adams is not a clinical finisher – otherwise he would be a far more valuable player. He should have scored early in the first-half only for his shot from Stephen O’Donnell’s cut-back to hit John Stones. Then he sliced an admittedly more difficult chance wide late on. Similarly his passing was not always accurate and he had the opportunity to slide Dykes through but over-hit the ball. Even so, his movement and work-rate were impressive.

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