WEST HAM and Aston Villa scrapped their way to an equal share of zero at Villa Park on Monday in front of England boss Gareth Southgate.
But while both sides’ attacking players had nights to forget, there were two young Englishman on show who done their international hopes the world of good.
Declan Rice and Tyrone Mings were two of the best players on the pitch as both young men put in assured showings in front of their new national boss.
Arthur Masuaku’s second-half red card will dominate the headlines after a feisty night in the Midlands that ten-man West Ham will have been glad to escape with a point.
And after the de-throning of ‘King Arthur’ has taken place, talk of both teams’ wastefulness will be next on the agenda.
But – sloppy attacking aside – the scoresheet also remained blank thanks to towering performances from the England pair which will please Southgate who recently handed both players their first international shot.
Rice had a quiet start to the night and there were early signs of an England hangover but the 20-year-old grew into game after half-time and his post-match passing and tackling stats made for mouth-watering reading.
Hell, he even had a shot in the second-half but it cannoned back of Villa’s man-of-the-match Jack Grealish.
Rice told Sky Sports afterwards he is hell-bent on a place in next year’s EURO 2020 squad and continually watches players like Fernandinho and Rodri in a bid to be the very best he can be.
The holding midfielder received some stick after England’s win against Kosovo after his loose pass gifted the visitors a goal.
But he also played a key part in the Three Lions’ fourth goal of the same game having won the ball back brilliantly and sprung his team into attack.
Manuel Pellegrini defended his young protégé before tonight and the response the Argentine saw from Rice is exactly what his managers – club and international – will have been looking for.
A fitting 66th birthday present for Pellegrini indeed.
Rice’s composed demeanour is impressive for a man so young and if he carries on as he is, the world truly is his oyster.
Mings at 26, is a relative latecomer to the England party.
And while he is yet to make his Three Lions debut, the way he kept £45million man Sebastien Haller quiet on Monday surely means it is only a matter of time.
It was a fairly eventful evening for the former mortgage broker who had to endure a headbutt from teammate Anwar El Ghazi before a second-half yellow card and a late penalty scare – when he clipped Ryan Fredericks in the box – threatened to derail an otherwise flawless performance.
His defensive partner Frederic Guilbert also put in a composed shift which helped, while his attacking opponent Haller looked disinterested and immobile for most of the night.
But you can only play what is put in front of you and play it Mings did.
He will be vital in any success Villa have this season and you sense he could outgrow the club if they fail to challenge the top 10.
Rarely are 0-0 draws as entertaining as this one, but tonight both young Lions put on a defensive show they can be proud of which certainly bodes well for Southgate’s 2020 plans.