While England might have been hoping to sign off their EURO 24 qualifying adventure with a statement on foreign soil, the Three Lions were forced to settle for an uninspiring 1-1 stalemate against North Macedonia.
Although Gareth Southgate might have made a string of enforced changes here, the European giants fell to a shock 1-0 deficit four minutes before the interval as Enis Barshi poured on a rebound after Jordan Pickford denied the Trabzonspor striker from the penalty spot.
While Jack Grealish might have thought he had bagged an equaliser just seconds after returning from the half-time break, the Manchester City ace saw his second-half strike ruled out following a lengthy VAR check.
Although England might have failed to find any kind of clinical edge in the final third, the unfortunate Jani Atanasov eventually turned into his own net on the hour mark.
However, only mustering a pair of shots on target here and set to come under more scrutiny, Southgate’s squad will know that they must produce more stability when they arrive out in Germany next year.
On a night when England missed out on a golden chance to make a Group C statement of intent, we have taken a glance at the key talking points.
England must be preparing for life after Southgate
While England might have breezed their way to next year’s European Championships as Group C winners, it is fair to say that the Three Lions have largely struggled to find top gear with much stability.
Despite marking their return to EURO 24 qualifying duties over the weekend with a 2-0 victory at home against Malta, Southgate’s side have certainly come under some increasing scrutiny.
Although the European giants might have gone through their qualifying adventure unbeaten, England have gained a reputation for their pragmatic approach under Southgate.
Failing to gain any real excitement around England supporters, the one-time Aston Villa defender simply isn’t getting the best out of an England squad that is glittering with attacking superstars.
Unable to find any kind of clinical edge on Monday night and only mustering a pair of shots on target, the FA must be planning for life after Southgate and produce a list of potential replacements that have a more attacking mindset.
Lewis steals the plaudits on his senior debut
Although England fans might have been hugely frustrated by their 1-1 draw on Monday night, it was certainly Manchester City’s homegrown starlet who stole all of the positive headlines.
While Lewis might have been unfortunate after giving away a controversial first-half penalty, the 18-year-old put in a Man of the Match performance and was undoubtedly Southgate’s brightest spark.
24 hours before his 19th birthday, Lewis put in a mature display after being thrust into the limelight following Kieran Trippier’s late withdrawal from Southgate’s squad.
Receiving a string of praise from Southgate and continuing to impress after bursting into Pep Guardiola’s first-team picture at the Etihad, Lewis should now have his sights set on clinching a ticket to next year’s European Championships.
Becoming England’s 20th youngest player on Monday night, Man City’s budding star has certainly staked his claim in a convincing fashion.
North Macedonia extend on their hometown flurry
Although North Macedonia might have long since seen their EURO 24 qualifying dreams go up in smoke, Monday’s hosts will take away a string of positives from their eye-catching ending.
While the Lions might have eventually failed to claim what would have undoubtedly been the most famous victory in their history, Blagoja Milevski’s men put in another rugged performance on home soil.
Signing off October’s international break with a thumping 3-1 victory against Armenia, they have now lost just one of their previous six showdowns at the National Arena across all competitions – a run that stems back over the past 12 months.
Snatching another 1-1 draw when they welcomed reigning European champions Italy to Skopje back on September 9th, Milevski’s men have been handed a platform to build on.
Although North Macedonia might currently find themselves sat 66th in the FIFA rankings, they have proven that they can be a headache for some of Europe’s elite.
North Macedonia: Dimitrievski, Manev, Serafimov, Musliu, Dimoski, Alimi, Atanasov, Alioski, Bardhi, Miovski, Elmas
Subs: Ashkovski, Kostadinov, Elezi, Ristovski
England: Pickford, Walker, Maguire, Guehi, Lewis, Alexander-Arnold, Rice, Saka, Foden, Grealish, Watkins
Subs: Kane, Palmer, Rashford, Phillips
Goals: North Macedonia: Bardhi (41’) – England: Atansov OG (59’)
Yellow Cards: North Macedonia: Elmas – England: Alexander-Arnold, Lewis
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Filip Glova