England and Italy played out a limp draw in front of empty stands as Gareth Southgate experimented against the inexperienced Azzurri in the Nations League on Saturday.
Following the shock 1-0 loss in Hungary and Tuesday’s hard-fought 1-1 draw in Germany, the Three Lions continued their World Cup preparations against Roberto Mancini’s European champions in Wolverhampton.
The vibe around the Nations League encounter could not have been more different to the Euro 2020 final at Wembley 11 months ago, when crowd trouble compounded England’s agonising penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.
That fan disorder meant Saturday's reunion had to be played behind closed doors at Molineux, where the Group A3 clash ended in a forgettable 0-0 draw.
There were just seven starters from the Euro 2020 final line-ups as Southgate tested his peripheral players before a winter World Cup from which Italy will be absent, allowing Mancini to fully focus on their rebuild.
Mason Mount hit the crossbar early on and Aaron Ramsdale denied Sandro Tonali in an open first half that made way for a second period disrupted by substitutions.
Stand-in skipper Raheem Sterling wasted the hosts’ best chance in a match watched by a couple of thousand schoolchildren. There were a few boos from the kids at full-time.
"We had two or three really good chances which we need to score, we lacked the sharpness in the final third," Southgate told Channel 4.
"In the second half we were much the better team. When you are pushing and there is no crowd behind you and that makes a difference.
"This has been a difficult series of matches, two away game and you saw how difficult Hungary are to play against. Then in Munich when we have the advantage we did not have the crowd. Physically and psychologically that makes a difference."
Midfielder Mount added: "It is frustrating, we want to win, create chances and score goals.
"I probably should have done better with my chances, we had a few other chances and it is something we have to look at. We are keeping clean sheets so it is something that is a positive but we have to work at it.
"We have to keep working hard in training, look where we can improve. We have the players to to do that, the talent and quality, just work at it.
"I was in a 10 role so gave me freedom to roam and find spaces, linking the midfield to the attacking boys. I found myself in spaces to shoot but did not to do well enough from my shot but it was too easy for the keeper. It is a difficult one to take because I feel we could have come away with more.
"We want to win every game, even if it is a friendly. We have looked a the last two games, felt confident in what we do but it is a tough one."