football

England: Harry Maguire bemoans decision to award penalty to North Macedonia during draw in Skopje

Harry Maguire says defenders are unable to make contact in the box without the risk of conceding a penalty, following the controversial awarding of a spot-kick to North Macedonia vs England on Monday night.

A long ball forward saw England debutant Rico Lewis challenge Bojan Miovski in the area and head clear, but a trailing arm on the North Macedonia forward was spotted by VAR, forcing referee Filip Glova to point to the spot.

Bardhi saw his initial spot-kick saved by Pickford, but slammed in the rebound as England went in behind on the break.

Maguire showed his disapproval towards the referee after the decision, so much so he said Glova "gave them a goal".

"It was a crazy decision," he said.

"I've said it for numerous months now: it's making the lives even more harder for us defenders. Even in the Premier League, week in, week out, we're playing against top-quality forwards and we can't move our body.

"We can't defend, can't make contact, can't put your arms out. It's just too harsh, too soft penalties and for me, it's never a penalty.

"Rico reacted really, really well from it and we put in a big performance after that."

Gareth Southgate's team rounded off their 2023 schedule with an unconvincing 2-0 win over Malta on Friday, before the 1-1 draw with North Macedonia in Skopje.

Despite an underwhelming end to their qualifying campaign, these were two results that ensured they got the points they needed to wrap up a Pot 1 spot in the Euro 2024 draw, which takes place in Hamburg on Saturday December 2.

Maguire admits England's final two Euro 2024 qualifiers did not pan out as hoped, but says they are "in a great place" regardless.

As a result, Maguire was upbeat when asked to summarise England's year.

"It's been a great year for us," he said.

"It was a tough group and to qualify with two games to spare was big credit for the lads. We beat Italy twice and took four points off Ukraine as well.

"We knew this would be a tough camp. We wanted to win both games, we wanted to score lots of goals and entertain the crowd. It wasn't to be, we found it a little bit tougher than we should have, but I think we're in a great place."

Sky Sports News' Rob Dorsett at the Todor Proeski National Arena:

"That was pretty scary in Skopje. England were poor, as they were three nights ago, and didn't have the quality or the character to force a win against the side they hammered 7-0 just five months ago.

"There was mitigation for England [on Monday] - the pitch was poor, which didn't promote any fluidity. The refereeing was worse, which cost England at key moments.

"But, if England have aspirations to win the Euros next summer, which they do, they must be better when things don't go their way. The best teams find a way to win, and England couldn't manage that in Skopje.

"Southgate will be criticised - with some justification - for keeping Harry Kane on the bench for most of the game. The fact that he forced the equaliser within seconds of coming on, speaks volumes. Ollie Watkins struggled to make an impact.

"All in all, that's a very disappointing end to the 2023 international calendar for England, who were poor in both matches against the minnows of Malta and North Macedonia. England managed just one goal of their own in both matches - the other two were own goals.

"Quite simply, when England don't have Jude Bellingham, they look a little one-paced and lacking in inspiration. And that's worrying.

"Perhaps the best you can say is that England remain unbeaten in qualifying, and this dour draw doesn't make any difference to the campaign as a whole. It's not much, but it's something."

England's Euro 2024 Qualifying campaign is now over and they are not back in action until March 23, when they host Brazil at Wembley - kick-off 7pm.

England's final game before Gareth Southgate names his shortlist for Euro 2024 is against Belgium at Wembley three days later.