England 0-0 Germany: Pickford and Loftus-Cheek impress as Three Lions hold World champions

England 0-0 Germany: Pickford and Loftus-Cheek impress as Three Lions hold World champions

England held reigning World champions Germany to a goalless draw but Gareth Southgate's produced a credible performance given their inexperience at international level.

Charlie Malam
England(3-5-2) Pickford; Stones, Jones (Gomez, min. 25), Maguire; Rose (Bertrand, min. 71), Dier, Livermore (Cork, min. 86), Trippier (Walker, min. 71); Loftus-Cheek; Vardy (Lingard, min. 86), Abraham (Rashford, min. 59).
Germany(3-4-3) ter Stegen; Ginter, Hummels, Rüdiger; Kimmich, Gündogan (Rudy, min. 87), Özil, Halstenberg; Draxler (Can, min. 67), Werner (Wagner, min. 73), Sané (Brandt, min. 87).
REFEREEPawel Raczkowski (POL). Yellow cards: Gomez (min. 45+1), Livermore (min. 59).
INCIDENTSInternational friendly and World Cup warm-up between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium, London. Attendance: 81,382.

England earned a credible goalless draw at home to Germany in a World Cup warm-up on Friday, although they failed to score at Wembley Stadium for the first time in four years.

Debutants Jordan Pickford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, named Man of the Match, both impressed as the Three Lions - minus several key players - held their own against Joachim Löw's reigning World champions.

Both sides had their chances and substitute Jesse Lingard might have won it for the home side late on at a free-kick, but hooked well over the crossbar from close range.

Despite producing an improved and entertaining display, Gareth Southgate's men failed to score for the first time since last facing Die Mannschaft on home soil in September 2013.

England should have led inside 90 seconds but another of their three starting debutants, Tammy Abraham, could not meet Jamie Vardy's low cross for a tap-in before Kieran Trippier fired into the side-netting.

Leroy Sané - one of Manchester City's best performers this season - was Germany's biggest threat in the first half with the visitors particularly dangerous on the counter-attack.

The electric winger drilled narrowly wide before curling a 20-yard effort off the crossbar and then being denied by Phil Jones' headed clearance after Pickford had parried Timo Werner's attempt.

The Everton goalkeeper denied the RB Leipzig striker again when he stretched low to his right one-on-one and an engaging contest saw Abraham go close at the other end when his effort looped wide off Antonio Rüdiger.

The Swansea City loanee was denied again when Matthias Ginter beat him in the air to Vardy's attempt to square to the 20-year-old after Loftus-Cheek's through ball.

Following up from Pickford's saves, Marc-André ter Stegen produced a sublime stop of his own to deny Vardy's header soon after the restart and Mats Hummels turned Eric Dier's cross away under his crossbar.

The tempo and intensity dropped as a raft of substitutions were made in the second-half but Manchester United's Lingard wasted a gilt-edged opportunity deep into stoppage-time to end a 42-year wait for a home win over Germany, blazing over the bar.

But England at least ended a run of six straight defeats on home soil against their rivals as Germany extended their unbeaten run to 20 games since their Euro 2016 semi-final loss to France.

Pickford stakes his claim

Jack Butland was set to start back-to-back games for England for the first time, and it would have been poignant that he do so against Germany - the same team he broke his ankle against in March 2016, leading him to miss over a year of football. 

But the Stoke City shot-stopper's injury misfortune continued with a broken finger sustained in training at St George's Park on Thursday, leaving the door open for Pickford to make his international debut.

And the 23-year-old, excellent for Everton despite their miserly league form, certainly took his opportunity - suggesting himself to be a viable No.1 despite Southgate's pre-match claims that Joe Hart - on loan at West Ham United from City - remains his first choice 'keeper.

Much is made of Pickford's eye-catching distribution and while that was typically impressive here, it was his shot-stopping that was truly sublime. The £30 million 'keeper showcased his reflexes when up against the usually prolific Werner, twice denying him when many other goalkeepers would have been beaten.

It was a performance that backed up the long-held belief behind-the-scenes of the national set-up that Pickford can go right the way to the top of the game and will certainly boost his standing within the senior squad, despite it being just his first appearance.

Hart is expected to be restored to the starting eleven at home to Brazil on Tuesday but Pickford's display here will have Southgate quietly reconsidering whether Hart remains at the top of the pecking order, the 74-cap international now challenged to produce a fine display of his own.

Yet should Pickford continue to impress for Everton then he could well find himself as the starter between the sticks by the time England's next pair of fixtures come March.

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England improved despite quieter second-half

It took just less than two minutes to see half-chances at either end, and that set the tempo for a first half that could be considered a classic in comparison with other matches involving the Three Lions in 2017 - even without any goal.

England have been rightly criticised for dour, uninspiring displays - no better evidenced than by their sleepy back-to-back 1-0 wins last month against mediocre opposition in Slovenia and Lithuania.

But this showing was much better, partly due to the higher standard of opposition, partly due to a fluid formation and also down to a number of impressive individual performances from the team's lesser experienced, but more energetic and enthusiastic players.

The 3-5-2/3-4-1-2 system, which Southgate selected purposefully to improve his team's use of possession in central areas, resulted in a brighter attacking display and an end-to-end affair in the first-half.

The second 45 was less engaging, with fewer chances for either team - but England's organisation and shape as a defensive unit completed an accomplished performance and one from which Southgate can take a number of positives moving forward.

The only real negative was injury to Phil Jones in the first half, the United defender forced off by a troublesome thigh injury after having done brilliantly to deny Sané with a header on the line.

That was a disappointing personal blow for Jones, who started as England's most senior player with 23 caps, and has worked his way back into Southgate's thoughts with some impressive displays in the Premier League. United will hope his problem is not too serious.

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Loftus-Cheek the pick of England's outfield youngsters

His options ravaged by injuries with seven of his initial 25-man squad dropping out, Southgate handed out three debuts from the start to an England eleven with just 101 caps in total.

Not since 1980 had England named such an inexperienced side with Pickford and Loftus-Cheek and Abraham - on loan at Crystal Palace and Swansea from parent club Chelsea - all handed an opportunity.

Injury to Jones also meant Liverpool's Joe Gomez became the 12th debutant in just 13 games under Southgate before the half-hour mark, with Jack Cork the fifth player to make his first appearance late on to make it 13 from 13.

But it was England's youngest debutants who took the spotlight and refused to be intimidated by it.

All of the nation's prospects fared well but it was the forward-thinking Loftus-Cheek in particular who was influential from his advanced midfield role, creating opportunities with clever creative passing and driving runs. 

An attack-minded presence, the 21-year-old's performance was refreshing for the impact it had on the entire team.

England's midfield has been devoid of midfield in recent outings, the pairing of Dier and Jordan Henderson ineffective and unpenetrative in their last home game against Slovenia, but Loftus-Cheek stood out thanks to his innovation and enterprise on the ball, constantly looking to take the side forward.

Of the other new boys, the aforementioned Pickford produced two high-quality stops in a display which will do his hopes of becoming a more regular feature the world of good.

Elsewhere Abraham, who was brought off after 59 minutes, twice went close to scoring from link-up with Vardy and was unfortunate not to see his deflected attempt drop inside the near post after creating a half-yard to shoot. He dove-tailed well with his strike partner despite failing to score.

Finally, Gomez took time to fully find his feet but helped form a sturdy England back-line after the break and coped well having gone into the book for a tactical foul on Sané before half-time.

Burnley midfielder Cork had too little time to have any real impact, though will be pleased to have got on for his first England outing at the age of 29.