AAP Soccer

England, Croatia draw in Nations League

By AAP Newswire

England have been held to a 0-0 draw away to World Cup finalists Croatia after missing several chances in a Nations League top-tier Group 4 clash played behind closed doors.

The result inside the near-deserted stadium on Friday left both sides with one point from two games behind runaway leaders Spain, who have six points and host England in Seville on Monday.

Without any fans present as Croatia continued to serve a crowd ban for racist offences by their fans in Euro 2016 qualifying, the instructions from both benches echoed around the empty ground in a tepid first half at the Rijeka stadium.

The game was built up by some English media as a chance for the visitors to avenge Croatia's 2-1 World Cup semi-final win in Russia in July but the game failed to produce any fireworks.

The solitary chance in the opening 45 minutes fell to England midfielder Eric Dier, who glanced his header against the post after a Jordan Henderson corner.

Chants of "God Save the Queen" from a handful of English supporters outside the ground seemed to lift the visitors but the woodwork and some dreadful finishing by striker Marcus Rashford denied them a goal.

Striker Harry Kane headed a Henderson free kick against the bar before Rashford squandered two excellent opportunities when one-on-one with the goalkeeper in the space of two minutes.

Croatia's Ivan Perisic forced a good save from Jordan Pickford with a stinging low shot and Ante Rebic fired inches wide with a long-range effort for the revamped home side.

England's Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund's exciting 18-year old winger, produced a darting run late on after coming off the bench and make his international debut before the match fizzled out.

In Group A2, Romelu Lukaku scored twice to earn Belgium a 2-1 victory over Switzerland, lifting the mood in the country after a week marred by match-fixing allegations.

Belgium's second win in the group means they've won 11 of their past 12 matches, the only blemish being the World Cup semi-final defeat by France in July.

Northern Ireland's worries deepened as Austria's Marko Arnautovic condemned them to a 1-0 defeat in Vienna.

The West Ham striker scored the only goal in the 71st minute to leave Michael O'Neill's men without a point from their opening two matches in League B's Group 3.

Norwich striker Teemu Pukki kept Finland top of C2 with three wins from as many games after he struck a dramatic stoppage-time winner to overcome Estonia 1-0.

Elsewhere in that group, Greece beat Hungary by the same scoreline in Athens following a second-half winner from Kostas Mitroglou.

In Group D2, Belarus moved to the top after Anton Saroka's strike earned a 1-0 win that ended Luxembourg's 100 per cent start, while Radu Ginsari's double saw Moldova beat San Marino 2-0.