England 1 - 1 Ukraine: Frank Lampard gets England out of a tight spot
SKIPPER Steven Gerrard was sent off as Frank Lampard’s 86th-minute penalty spared England’s blushes at Wembley.
England - Lampard (pen 87); Ukraine - Konoplienka (39)
Gerrard was red-carded two minutes from the end of a poor display from Roy Hodgson’s men in their World Cup qualifier with Ukraine. The hosts were saved when Yevhen Khacherdi blocked Danny Welbeck’s flick with his arm, allowing Lampard to drive home from the spot to earn England a point.
Gerrard’s dismissal followed shortly afterwards for a second yellow card. The Liverpool man becomes the 14th England player to be sent off, although the damage is not too bad as he only misses the visit of San Marino next month. “I thought all the yellow cards were harsh. It was not a game were there were a lot of bad fouls. There were not a lot of fouls full stop,” said Hodgson. “There were far too many yellow cards for the fouls that were committed and we certainly got too many. Steven Gerrard is certainly very unlucky to be sent off. I don’t think the two fouls he was adjudged to have committed were worthy of that sanction.”
Ukraine will be cursing a missed opportunity, though. Already nursing a sense of grievance after having a perfectly good goal ruled out when the two sides met at Euro 2012, Oleg Blokhin’s men came agonisingly close to what would have been a deserved victory. In Yevgen Konoplianka, they had not only the game’s star performer but also scorer of a goal worthy of winning any match. And, while defeat was avoided, clearly there is so much work ahead of Hodgson and his team if they are to reach Brazil 2014.
It had not gone unnoticed that the last time England went into a competitive game with John Terry, Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand all missing from their starting line-up was against Croatia almost five years ago. That miserable night was the last time England lost a qualifying match on home soil. It was a record that soon became obvious was going to be tested.
Only three minutes had elapsed when Oleg Gusev’s cross flicked off Leighton Baines, dipped over Joe Hart and clipped the outside of a post. Joleon Lescott cleared another Gusev cross, then Roman Zozulya failed to capitalise on Konoplianka’s neat approach work. During those dodgy opening minutes, England’s passing was awful, costing them a chance to build up any momentum.
Five-goal winners in Moldova on Friday, third-ranked team in the world, any sense of superiority was shaken out of England by spirited opponents. Andriy Shevchenko’s retirement, far from weakening the team, created a greater bond in the group, which new skipper Anatoliy Tymoschuk marshalled around the field in impressive fashion.
It might have been different had Jermain Defoe’s thunderous effort not been ruled out. Defoe’s disbelief was obvious. Yet it was also beyond doubt he had shoved a textbook rugby hand-off into the neck of Andriy Yarmolenko, who made the most of it. Gerrard was trying to inspire, like a good captain should. Clearing a goalbound Ruslan Rotan effort at one end, driving a pass through for Defoe at the other, the striker’s flick almost releasing James Milner. It was the prelude to Cleverley’s succession of glaring misses. Defoe showed admirable unselfishness when he opted to steer Gerrard’s cross back into the six-yard box rather than go for goal himself from an acute angle.
Cleverley raced in, looking certain to gobble up the chance with only Andrei Pyatov to beat. Unfortunately, the Manchester United man fired straight at the Ukraine goalkeeper, whose reactions were up to the task.
Cleverley then flicked Lampard’s pass well wide from a good position, before lifting the ball against the outside of a post from Milner’s pass. Amid the personal anguish, Ukraine had seized the initiative.
Konoplianka stepped inside Gerrard, and the highly-rated midfielder sent a 25-yard effort curling over Hart and into the top corner.
Glen Johnson, among six England players to be booked after the break, went close but the introductions of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge were inevitable given how the game was panning out.
Redemption came three minutes from the end, with Lampard converting from the spot, just as he did in Chisinau on Friday. But the outcome will fool no one, least of all Hodgson.
He did, however, praise the effort and said: “You are always relieved when you are losing 1-0 and you get a late equaliser. I suppose all games you don’t win at home people say it’s not a great performance but I didn’t think we did that badly.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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