By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - England held world champions Germany to a 0-0 draw after giving debuts to five players as their inexperienced team came through a first-half lesson to hold their own in a lively Wembley friendly on Friday.
With a host of established players missing, England’s callow defence was routinely sliced open in the first period and they needed debutant goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to keep the Germans at bay.
But England also had some bright moments, with midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek making an assured debut and having great chances at the start and end of the match.
England manager Gareth Southgate, shorn of more than half his likely first-choice side, was pleased with much that he saw, despite the result leaving England still searching for their first home win over their old rivals since 1975.
"In the first half we needed a couple of really good saves from Jordan Pickford - we caused our own problems with a couple of those. But we posed our own questions and I thought we used the ball well," Southgate told ITV.
"Ruben Loftus-Cheek did everything I know he can do. It took him 10 minutes to realise he is OK at this level. He is capable of anything. He has the physical attributes and can handle the ball. He will gain huge confidence from it. There will be harder tests as the likes of Germany will have another gear to go to."
Germany were also in somewhat experimental mode and their coach Joachim Loew will have been delighted in particular with an impressive display by Leroy Sane as his team stretched their unbeaten run to 20 games since losing to France in the Euro 2016 semi-finals.
England's young starting team boasted 101 caps between them and one of the debutants, Tammy Abraham, was a centimetre away from scoring with his first touch in international football after 90 seconds.
Germany too were without some heavyweight players and gave a debut to defender Marcel Halstenberg and had goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen making his second appearance.
They soon took control as Sane clipped a 20-metre curler against the bar after 20 minutes, Pickford saved well from Timo Werner and Phil Jones headed Sane’s follow-up off the line.
Jones, the team’s most experienced player, then limped off and another debutant, Liverpool’s 20-year-old Joe Gomez, took his place to trim England’s cap count to less than Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil’s personal tally of 86.
The lack of experience and familiarity was exposed again soon afterwards when Pickford went full length to again deny Werner as Sane was seemingly given the freedom of Wembley.
Ter Stegen made an excellent reflex save to get low and palm clear striker Jamie Vardy's header early in the second half but the steam then gradually left the game.
Midfielder Jack Cork came on as a late substitute to make it five England debuts on the night and another replacement, Jesse Lingard, should really have won it with the last kick of the match but his close-range shot flew over the bar.
England captain Eric Dier said: "I think we did well. Obviously against a well-oiled machine they will have periods in the game where they control possession but I didn't think they hurt us. And we had our periods, broke well at times and are actually disappointed we haven't scored."
England will face a similarly stiff test when they host Brazil on Tuesday while Germany take on France as the teams start preparing for the World Cup finals in Russia next year.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Ken Ferris)