FIFA World Cup 2018
Qualifying – Europe
Stadion Stožice, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Joe Hart produced a man of the match performance for England as the Three Lions endured a goalless stalemate against Slovenia at the Stadion Stožice in Ljubljana in their third World Cup Qualifying match.
The Manchester City goalkeeper, on-loan at Torino, was called into action on a number of occasions to atone for a number of individual errors from his below-par teammates to deny Slovenia and ensure England continued their unbeaten run at the top of Group F.
Both sides started well but it was the hosts, who should have taken the lead when Roman Bezjak seized onto a loose backpass from Eric Dier. The striker had just Hart to beat, but the England keeper came to the rescue and smothered the effort. The ball was then worked to Jasmin Kurtić, who cut-inside before curling an effort that struck the post with the loose ball falling to Bezjak, who somehow fired wide on the rebound from close-range.
The hosts started the second-half in the ascendancy and went close when a Slovenian corner was met by Boštjan Cesar, whose header forced Hart into a fine save at the near-post with the keeper palming the effort behind.
The hosts nearly took the lead from the resulting-corner when Kurtić’s header from the delivery forced Hart into a phenomenal save. The on-loan Torino goalkeeper stunningly tipped the effort onto the underside of the bar before palming the ball away with his other hand.
In the 58th minute Slovenia went close again. After England lost possession Slovenia did well to work the ball to Josip Iličić, who fired just wide from-range.
Four minutes later England went close when substitute Andros Townsend fired an effort at goal but Jan Oblak palmed the effort away.
Seven minutes later the hosts should have broken the deadlock when Iličić seized onto a loose pass from Jordan Henderson; the striker managed to get ahead of Gary Cahill and had just Hart to beat but his touch was poor and the England keeper came to the rescue again; smothering the effort behind.
In the 78th minute England went close when an interception from Miha Mevlja fell into the path of substitute Wayne Rooney, who fired an effort just wide of the target.
Three minutes later England went close when Rooney found Manchester United teammate Jesse Lingard, whose rasping drive from-range was brilliantly palmed behind by Oblak.
That was the last chance of the match as Slovenia held on for a well-deserved-point, although they possibly deserved all three.
The result meant that England remained on top of Group F on seven points, whilst Slovenia climbed up to third on five points. Slovenia are behind second-placed Lithuania (also on five points) on goal difference but are ahead of fourth-placed Scotland, who have four points. Slovakia remain in fifth but earned their first three points of the campaign after defeating Scotland. Malta remain bottom of the Group without a point after defeat to Lithuania.