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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 October 2006, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
England 0-0 Macedonia
By Phil McNulty

England's Steven Gerrard
England's Steven Gerrard is challenged in the Macedonia penalty area
England's Euro 2008 qualifying campaign stuttered after a disappointing draw against Macedonia at Old Trafford.

Steve McClaren's side wasted several chances, with Gary Neville and Steven Gerrard hitting the woodwork.

Macedonia keeper Jane Nikoloski saved well from Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch, but Igor Mitrevski's header was only inches away from shocking England.

Wayne Rooney was substituted on his return and Gerrard will miss the clash with Croatia after a yellow card.

England suffered a blow before kick-off when Rio Ferdinand was forced to pull out of the starting line-up with a back injury - allowing Spurs captain Ledley King to step in.

They made a lively start, with the returning Rooney prominent, but once Macedonia settled to their task they were more than a match for England in the first 45 minutes.

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Goran Pandev tested the England defence after 10 minutes with a twisting run that ended with a shot into the side-netting.

England's attacking attempts were few and far between, although Lampard almost forged an opening four minutes before the interval when he burst into the Macedonia penalty area, but keeper Nikoloski plunged bravely at his feet.

And Nikoloski then denied Lampard an opener after 47 minutes when he palmed away his header from Stewart Downing's free-kick.

England suffered a blow seconds later when Gerrard picked up the yellow card that keeps him out of the clash with Croatia for a foul on Pandev.

But Macedonia were proving accomplished opponents, and Mitrevski gave England their biggest scare seven minutes later with a header that was only inches over.

The game was being played at a higher tempo, and Aco Stojkov tested England keeper Paul Robinson at his near post after stretching away from King.

England had their best opportunity to go ahead in the 58th minute, when Nikoloski saved brilliantly from Crouch's diving header as he met Downing's excellent cross.

The rebound fell invitingly for Gary Neville, who glanced the bar with a rising angled drive from only eight yards.

England were forced into changes in a bid to break down Macedonia's resistance, with Shaun Wright-Phillips replacing Downing after 69 minutes.

The Chelsea winger almost scored within seconds, only to shoot straight at the excellent Nikoloski.

Rooney had been a subdued figure after a good start, and he was replaced by Jermain Defoe with 16 minutes left.

Wright-Phillips had started to commit Macedonia's defenders - and he was the instigator as England were denied by the woodwork with five minutes left.

He set up Gerrard from 20 yards and the Liverpool captain rattled the bar with a powerful drive.

Crouch then missed another chance with a header in injury time, and England's last opportunity had escaped.


England: Robinson, Gary Neville, Terry, King, Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick, Downing (Wright-Phillips 70), Rooney (Defoe 74), Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Phil Neville, Carragher, Parker, Bent.

Booked: Gerrard.

FYR Macedonia: Nikolovski, Noveski, Petrov, Sedloski, Lazarevski, Igor Mitreski, Aleksander Mitreski, Sumulikoski, Maznov, Naumoski (Stojkov 45), Pandev (Tasevski 83).
Subs Not Used: Pacovski, Jancevski, Vasovski, Popov, Sakiri.

Booked: Petrov.

Att: 72,062.

Ref: Markus Merk (Germany).

SEE ALSO
International photos
07 Oct 06 |  Football
McClaren bemoans lack of quality
07 Oct 06 |  Internationals
BBC pundits on England
07 Oct 06 |  Internationals


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