KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: After all the celebrations of Britain’s sporting summer, it was back-down-to-earth time as a late Frank Lampard penalty saved undeserving England from defeat against Ukraine in their World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
Roy Hodgson’s first home competitive match as England manager ended up in a disappointing 1-1 draw – anything but a continuation of the Olympic, Paralympic and Andy Murray party even though a selection of Team GB medal-winners were guests of honour on the night.
Adding to a bleak night for a weakened England – missing John Terry, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney – skipper Steven Gerrard was sent off in the 88th minute after collecting a second yellow card.
Ukraine started as if fired up by a video of that infamous John Terry over-line-line clearance against England in Donetsk during Euro 2012.
Oleg Gusiev had a cross-shot deflected against the outside of a post and away for a corner after four minutes, Ruslan Rotan had a side-footed shot cleared out from behind beaten keeper Joe Hart by Gerrard and Denys Garmash jabbed a volley over the top before Ievgeni Konoplianka finally rifled home a right-foot drive in the 39th minute.
The goal was thoroughly deserved for aUkraineside who had dominated the opening exchanges as if they were the home team. At least, as first-half time ran on, they demonstrated enough defensive frailties to give England reason for hope as Hodgson sought to reorganize his forces at half-time.
Jermain Defoe had a ‘goal’ disallowed in the 10th minute because he had stuck a hand into the trailing Andrii Iarmolenko’s face and Tom Cleverley found dangerous space three times only to waste each opportunity. The Manchester United midfielder duly gave way on the hour to Danny Welbeck as Hodgson started trying to shake up the game.
Daniel Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand also joined the action as England forged forward but without adding any more perceptible edge to their play.
Ukraine, with a point to prove after their luckless defeat to England in Donetsk at Euro 2012, played into their hosts’ hands by falling back, over- intent on defending their lead rather than extending it.
In these circumstances it was not surprising that England came close. In the 81st minute Bertrand snapped in a low left-wing cross and Welbeck, quick and alert, jabbed a shot against Piatov’s right-hand post. Four minutes later Welbeck proved decisive. His shot struck the arm of Yevgeni Khacheridi – who, turning and falling, knew little about it – and Lampard struck home the penalty.
Not that this was the end of the drama, late as it was.
One minute later Gerrard, chasing the ball down, went through Garmash from behind and collected a second yellow card, hence red.
Not a happy night for Hodgson and England.
England: Hart – Johnson, Jagielka, Lescott, Baines (Bertrand 72) – Gerrard, Lampard – Milner, Cleverley (Welbeck 60), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Sturridge 69) – Defoe. Manager: Hodgson.
Ukraine: Piatov – Gusiev, Khacheridi, Rakitsky, Selin (Shevchuk 75) – Tymoschchuk, Garmash – Iarmolenko, Rotan (Nazarenko 90), Konoplianka – Zozulia (Devich 88).
Ref: Cuneyt Cakir (Tur)
Yellow cards: Defoe, Gerrard, Lescott, Milner, Johnson; Rotan, Garmash.
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