North Macedonia secures a draw against England, with Atanasov’s own goal preventing England from being embarrassed.

When Harry Kane, who is currently in top form, is forced to sit on the bench, this is the outcome. However, once he was allowed to play, the effect was immediate. The captain of England quickly scored the equalizing goal just 40 seconds after entering the game.

The North Macedonia midfielder, Jani Atanasov, would be credited with an own goal, but it was the appearance of Kane that caused chaos for his defender. Kane made a quick run to meet a corner from Phil Foden just before the 60 minute mark.

England secured a positive result in the last match of their impressive Euro 2024 qualifying run. Their advancement was never in question after defeating Italy in Naples in the first game. Fortunately, the goal also shifted attention away from the referee, Filip Glova, who had a memorable performance for all the wrong reasons.

Glova caused a stir in England when he awarded a penalty to North Macedonia near the end of the first half. Rico Lewis, who was making his debut as left-back, was at fault and Enis Bardhi capitalized on the rebound after his initial shot was saved. After reviewing the play with VAR, Glova determined that Lewis had committed a foul by placing his hand on Bojan Miovski’s face while attempting to clear the ball. This was just one of Glova’s many strict calls during the match.

After that, the game lost its excitement. Although England was not flawless, they were still better than they were in their 2-0 victory over Malta at Wembley last Friday. They end the year with a record of eight wins and two draws in 10 matches. As everyone is aware, their performance in the European Championship in Germany will ultimately determine their success.

At the beginning, North Macedonia made it clear that they were ready to engage in a physical match with England. Their continuous attempts to provoke Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish were both annoying and a challenge to the wingers’ abilities to remain composed. This caused Gareth Southgate to express his frustration by raising his arms.

Glova was a controversial figure who made two crucial decisions in the first half. North Macedonia argued for a penalty on both occasions, but he only awarded it on the second attempt. While both calls felt incorrect, did they ultimately lead to the right outcome? The first call was a pivotal moment in the half as England had been in control up until then, with Ollie Watkins, who was selected over Kane, having a few chances and Declan Rice hitting a low shot that hit the far post after going through a crowd.

Enis Bardhi gives North Macedonia the lead on the rebound from a penalty awarded against Rico Lewis.

When Harry Maguire received the ball in the 23rd minute, there was no immediate threat. However, things quickly changed when he passed to Miovski, who then gave it to Eljif Elmas. This led to a one-on-one situation between Maguire and Elmas, with Maguire’s challenge being quite clumsy. He seemed to lose his balance and collide into Elmas, resembling Boris Johnson at Soccer Aid. Glova ultimately decided to give Maguire the benefit of the doubt.

Moving on to the next play, Lewis was able to intercept a cross from the left side of North Macedonia and successfully clear the ball with a header. However, Miovski, the Aberdeen striker, was seen lying on the ground. It was later discovered that Lewis had inadvertently placed his hand on Miovski’s face while jumping for the ball. After consulting with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), Glova reviewed the footage on the monitor on the side of the field and ultimately made the decision to award a penalty. This decision was deemed to be harsh and unreasonable. Despite the North Macedonia captain, Bardhi, missing his penalty kick, he was able to score off of the rebound. This made Miovski a hero in the eyes of all of Scotland. England now faced a daunting task.

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The 7-0 triumph of England against North Macedonia at Old Trafford in June played a crucial role in setting the stage. It marked North Macedonia’s biggest loss ever and it was clear that they were determined to prove themselves beyond that result. And they did just that.

Southgate’s initial lineup showed advancement, with Trent Alexander-Arnold playing in midfield. However, there was no Kalvin Phillips, therefore no double security with Rice. It was evident from the start that Lewis played aggressively and moved towards the inside when England had the ball, often positioning himself high up the field. Lewis could almost envision the headlines in the early stages of the game when a corner was partially cleared to him, but his first-time shot went wide. Unfortunately, he was unlucky with a VAR decision later on.

At the beginning of the second half, the advanced technology prevented England from scoring. The first half had concluded with Alexander-Arnold taking a long shot that was saved by Stole Dimitrievski. In the second half, England believed they had scored the tying goal thanks to Saka’s impressive maneuvering on the right side. He evaded two defenders and sent a cross in before the third defender could stop him. Grealish was in position to tap the ball in at the far post, but the goal was disallowed due to offside.

With Kane on the pitch, England remained composed and saw an immediate improvement in their performance. Although it was a huge chance for Watkins, he ultimately failed to capitalize on it, as he only managed to touch the ball 11 times and was not involved much in the game.