England frustrated by Slovakia as they finish second in group
Roy Hodgson’s side can’t find a way past Skrtel and co in 0-0 stalemate
Roy Hodgson’s England secured their place in the last 16 of Euro 2016, but lost their status as Group B winners, after being held to a goalless draw by Slovakia on Monday.
Wales’ 3-0 win over Russia in Toulouse meant the Three Lions finish second in Group B.
Slovakia must now wait to see if they qualify as one of four best third-place best teams after their goalkeeper Matus Kozacik pulled off a string of saves -- some more luck than judgement.
England will now play their last 16 game in Nice next Monday against the side who finishes second in Group F, most likely against Hungary or Portugal.
This was another frustrating night for England fans in Saint-Etienne.
It was at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard where David Beckham was sent off as England lost to Argentina on penalties in the last 16 of the 1998 World Cup.
England captain Gary Cahill said his side had lacked “cutting edge”.
“We tried and tried and they shut the door in our face,” Cahill told ITV.
England coach Roy Hodgson made six changes to the line-up, but Cahill denied it had affected the result.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “We had the ball constantly, we just didn’t quite have that cutting edge to open them up.
“In games like that you sometimes need something a little bit special.
“We obviously tried to bring fresh legs in there, it’s very difficult to play this intense and in this heat and I think we looked good. On another day we should win.”
Cahill agreed that the opening 1-1 draw with Russia had ultimately cost England dear.
“Of course. We may as well move on, we know we’re second in the group now and we know we’ve got a huge game coming up.”
Hodgson praised his side for their performance.
“I have to say I don’t think we could have done too much more than we did -- we dominated the game from start to finish and had so many attempts and so many chances as well, and one day we’re going to put those chances away,” Hodgson told ITV.
“As far as I’m concerned I can’t fault the effort and the work the lads put in.
“It’s a little bit embarrassing I think that we’ve played three games now and in each of the three games it’s been attack versus defence.
“I actually never thought I’d see an England team in a tournament be able to dominate three games as much as we’ve done so that gives me some sort of satisfaction.
“I’m pretty sure that sooner or later we’re going to make somebody pay because if we keep dominating and creating chances like that we’re going to score goals one day.
“We are still in the last 16 and who is to say that the team we’ll play by finishing second is going to be that much stronger than the team we would have played that’s finished third.
“The way we are playing I’m not frightened of anybody.”
Hodgson left skipper Wayne Rooney among the replacements with centre-back Cahill taking over the captain’s armband.
Slovakia coach Jan Kozak kept faith with the starting side which beat Russia 2-1 last Wednesday.
Vardy worked hard throughout, but squandered two clear chances of England’s nine first-half attempts on goal to Slovakia’s single effort.
He fired over early on, then had his shot blocked by Kozacik in a one-on-one after winning a sprint against Slovakia captain Martin Skrtel.
And only a fine tackle from right-back Peter Pekarik denied Sturridge at the near post in the opening 10 minutes.
Lallana was then denied by Kozacik’s reflex save with half an hour gone.
England’s frustration continued after the break.
A mix-up between centre-back Chris Smalling and goalkeeper Joe Hart allowed Slovakia winger Robert Mak a half-chance.
At the other end, only the slightest of deflections off Kozacik’s shoulder kept out Nathaniel Clyne’s shot.
There was a big cheer from travelling England supporters -- the loudest of the night -- when Wayne Rooney came on for Jack Wilshere with 56 minutes gone.
Dele Alli, on for Lallana, then saw his shot cleared by Skrtel after finding himself unmarked when he arrived in the area at pace.
Only England fans could be heard as the second half wore on, nosily urging the Three Lions on in search of the crucial goal which never came.
Rooney was a constant menace after coming on, firing wide as the game entered the final 10 minutes while Harry Kane, on for Sturridge, had a couple of late chances -- all to no avail.