England grabbed a late equaliser with frank Lampard scoring yet another penalty as England drew 1-1with the Ukraine At Wembley.
England’s World Cup Qualifying campaign started off well with 5-0 victory over Moldova, facing Ukraine was always going to be a much tougher task. Hodgson kept faith with the players that beat Moldova, with the only change being John Terry, who limped off the field near the end of the Moldova match, with Phil Jagielka his replacement in defence.
It was clear both sides were up for the game, but it was the Ukraine who looked , ore like scoring with England’s defending looking a little suspect. In a game where the opposition have tricky wingers it means that the fullbacks have to work a lot harder than what they had to against Moldova. Johnson attacked well but left his position open to be attacked far to often and the holding midfield roles being occupied by Lampard and Gerrard where not always occupied, a problem I felt was evident even against Moldova. In fairness to both of them neither are holding midfielders and can’t do the role justice like Scott Parker can.
The Ukraine did well putting in crosses into the box that troubling not just the defence but also ‘keeper Joe Hart. The first 15 minutes saw the best chances fall to Ukraine who had been out playing England for the first 15mins but as the half went on England started imposing themselves more onto the match. Gerrard played some great longballs for Jermain Defoe while the ever industrious James Milner created chances with some decent crosses and ran the line tireless all match. On the other wing the young Oxlade-Chamberlain continued to wow with his strength, dribbling and creativity.
With England starting to impose themselves on the game it could have been England who took the lead thtough Jermain Defoe but the referee had blown his whistle for foul by the small striker who while hled back his man with his hand in the Ukrainians throat. It was one of those decisions that if it was the other way round England would be calling for a foul and if it wasn’t given would say they referee was against them. it was a great strike from Defie, and one Ifelt should have stood. It was a shame it didn’t stand as it would have been a great goal.
Tom Cleverley was also unlucky not to score with his shot being hit straight at the ‘keeper. Some may argue that he should have scored, but with the speed that it all happened it is unfair to say that it was a howler. The chance came after Defoe’s header, which is one that should have been better as it didn’t trouble the ‘keeper but instead fell to the young United midfielder.
With the game looking like it was heading England’s way, it came as a huge blow when the Ukraine took the lead through an astonishing goal by Konoplianka. England lost the ball but when Konoplinaka moved towards goal he wasn’t closed down quickly enough, and although Gerrard tried to block the shot it was in vain as it whizzed into the top corner leaving Joe Hart hanging in the air. It was a beautiful strike and a wonder goal, one that should be bkessed to open ghe scoring to any game.
Credit to England as their heads didn’t drop thought and kept on the attack and had their chances to equalize and did with Tom Cleverley coming close two more times. The closest chance came when Milner neatly found Cleverley but his shot hit the outside of the post. The first half ended with England a goal down but while there were encouraging signs England still looked like they could concede more goals.
In the second half England continued with their possession play with chances still coming but the Ukraine defended well and still looked dangerous when they went on the counter attack. Hodgson made some changes to try and get a goal with Cleverley making way for United teammate Danny Welbeck and a little later Oxlade-Chamberlain came off for Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge and then Chelsea teammate Ryan Bertrand came on for Leighton Baines. England looked more attacking with Welbeck and then later with Sturridge on the field but still the goal didn’t come. England again hit the post, with Welbeck the one this time being denied.
Welbeck was very influential as not only was he unlucky not to score by hitting the post but it was his play on the 85th minute when Khaceridi’s arm hit ball ending up in a penalty being awarded. It was no surprise when Frank Lampard took the back and set it down and in typical Lampard fashion fired a ferocious shot just off centre to make it 1-1. Althought there wasn’t enough time to grab a goal there was enough time for Gerrard to pick up a second yellow card and receive his first red card on international duty. The first card may have been weak, but the second challenge was worthy of a yellow card.
In the end the result was a fair one. Both sides had their chances and if England had taken all of their chances then they may have won, but the perfromance was one that would have warranted a victory. When England attacked they looked good, but defensively they always looked like they could concede. Against Moldova I felt that Lampard and Gerrard gave the ball away far too often and didn’t have the best of games, but as Lampard scored twice that seemed to outshine all of that.
Against the Ukraine, Gerrard and Lampard had a decent game, but the role of holding midfielder is not one that comes naturally to either of them. For the style of play that Hodgson is going for then he needs players in the mold of Scott Parker. I personally feel that the hard work Milner does is one attribute that could be more used in the centre where he could track back all game and go forward from time to time.
In the end 4 points from the first two games is not a catastrophe but 6 points would have put England in the driving seat. Needless to say England need to win their next set of qualifying matches.