Soccer-England held to scrappy draw in North Macedonia

SKOPJE (Reuters) - England suffered a frustrating conclusion to their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign as they were held to a scrappy 1-1 draw by North Macedonia in Group C on Monday.

With qualification long since secured and just a draw needed to seal a top seeding for next year's finals, England trailed to Enis Bardhi's 41st-minute follow-up after his penalty was saved.

Gareth Southgate's group winners hogged possession but lacked fluency and invention against dogged hosts and needed an own goal by Jani Atanasov to get them level on the hour.

Jack Grealish had earlier seen a goal ruled out for offside while teenager Rico Lewis had a debut he will not forget after harshly being penalised for North Macedonia's penalty.

England ended the calendar year unbeaten, if in a rather underwhelming way, topping their group with 20 points from eight games with North Macedonia fourth on eight points.

After a lacklustre victory over Malta on Friday, England would have wanted to lay down a marker with a storming performance in Skopje against a side they beat 7-0 at home.

But they got bogged down and the only real positive was that they will be in the pot of top seeds for the Euro 2024 draw.


Southgate made six changes to the side that started Friday's 2-0 home win over Malta with Ollie Watkins getting a chance to impress in place of the rested Harry Kane but he managed only 11 touches before being substituted as England lacked creativity.

They enjoyed 82% possession in the first half yet trailed at the interval after Lewis, the day before his 19th birthday, was harshly-adjudged to have conceded a penalty.

The Manchester City full back headed away a bouncing ball but inadvertently caught Bojan Miovski in the face, prompting a VAR check which eventually saw Slovakian referee Filip Glova award a spot kick after checking the pitch-side monitor.

Jordan Pickford saved Bardhi's effort but the rebound fell invitingly to Bardhi who made no mistake at the second attempt.

It was tough on Lewis although England were fortunate earlier when Harry Maguire bundled over Elif Elmas in the box after his initial sloppy pass had put his side in trouble.

Declan Rice did thump a shot against the woodwork while Trent Alexander-Arnold drew a great save from home keeper Stole Dimitriev with a dipping effort on the stroke of halftime.

Grealish then thought he had levelled from Bukayo Saka's cross two minutes after the restart but he was ruled offside after a lengthy VAR check.

It took the introduction of captain Kane off the bench to save England with the skipper attacking Phil Foden's cross and the ball going in off Atanasov.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris)