Hart shines as disappointing England draws 0-0 at Slovenia
England required a series of brilliant saves from Joe Hart to salvage a 0-0 draw at Slovenia in World Cup qualifying, with the dropping of captain Wayne Rooney failing to have the desired effect on Tuesday.
The goalkeeper tipped Jasmin Kurtic's header onto the bar off a corner early in the second half with the best of his saves, and rushed from his line to keep out two one-on-one chances after sloppy England back-passes were intercepted.
''I was asked to do quite a bit,'' said Hart, who clattered into the goal frame when acrobatically denying Kurtic. ''My body is in absolute pieces; I'm going to struggle to get up tomorrow.''
England's 100 percent start to Group F, after wins over Slovakia and Malta, ended on a night that saw Rooney begin on the bench in a big call from interim manager Gareth Southgate. Rooney, who has been struggling for form for club and country this season, came on in the 73rd minute when Slovenia was controlling the game and curled a shot wide with his only chance.
It was the first time England had failed to win a qualifier for a major tournament in 15 games.
Like Rooney - who has also been dropped by Manchester United - Hart has had a tough season, losing his place at Manchester City and getting loaned out to Italian side Torino. He was also criticized for some displays during the European Championship, which England exited embarrassingly at the last-16 stage at the hands of Iceland.
But he produced probably his best display in an England jersey in Ljubljana, saving his team which struggled to create chances or keep possession against high-energy, well-drilled opposition.
It was Southgate's second game in charge, after a tedious home 2-0 win over Malta on Saturday, since replacing Sam Allardyce as coach. He has made a brave decision to drop Rooney, England's record scorer, but there's been little change in the level of performances under Southgate.
''The overall objective is to qualify, so long term it's a point towards that,'' Southgate said.
''We owe our goalkeeper for getting a point.''
England stayed in first place in the group, two points above Slovenia and Lithuania. Here's a look at the other games in the group:
SLOVAKIA 3, SCOTLAND 0
Robert Mak scored two goals and set up the third for Adam Nemec as Slovakia earned its first points in qualifying.
Mak's goals came in the 18th and 56th minutes in Trnava, before he whipped in a corner that was headed home by Nemec.
It was Scotland's first loss, coming three days after a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Lithuania.
LITHUANIA 2, MALTA 0
Lithuania collected its first win thanks to goals by Fiodor Cernych and Arvydas Novikovas, from the penalty spot, in the final 14 minutes.
Malta has lost all three of its games.