PODGORICA: England manager Roy Hodgson took whatever positives he could find after a 1-1 draw in Montenegro left them still two points adrift of the World Cup group H leaders with games running out.
After a fine first half, in which Wayne Rooney gave England a sixth-minute lead, they paid a heavy price for a second-half performance dip in which their passing went badly awry.
Joe Hart had to make two fine saves before Dejan Damjanovic scored Montenegro’s equalizer with 13 minutes remaining. Montenegro’s advantage could expand to five points before Hodgson’s side are next in competitive action in September.
Hodgson said: “It is still in our own hands. We still have to play Montenegro at home, Poland at home and Ukraine away. You are bringing it back to the result against Ukraine at home, when we would have liked to win but we drew.
“I suppose you could say Ukraine away will be crucial, but we still have three of our four games at home, so we will try to make certain we keep it in our hands by winning those matches.”
The difference between England’s first and second-half performances was arresting.
Yet the result might have been different had they been awarded a penalty for a foul on Danny Welbeck by former Manchester City defender Stefan Savic which referee Jonas Eriksson considered a yellow-card dive by the Manchester United striker.
Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic conceded it should have been a penalty but countered that Rooney had fouled one of his own players in the build-up to his 35th England goal.
Brnovic said: “It is possible that there was a penalty but did you see Rooney before he scored the goal?”
Reviewing the overall game, Brnovic added: “I like an attacking strategy, but against England it was not totally the way to go and they showed in the first half how strong they are.”
Brnovic claimed that if Montenegro beat Ukrainein Podgorica on June 9, they would be assured of at least a play-off berth.
Hodgson added: “To have won that game we would have needed to play in the second half like we did in the first. Unfortunately we didn’t pass the ball in the midfield areas and we lost control in that area of the field.
“Montenegro were able to take the game to us and had a couple of chances before they scored. My overall feeling is one of disappointment because at half-time I thought things were looking good for us. But it is not a bad result because Montenegro are a difficult team to beat.”
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