England held in Cape Town
Friday, 18 June, 2010
Three Lions held to a goalless draw with Algeria.
Stuart Mawhinney in Cape Town
England were held to a frustrating goalless draw in Cape Town leaving them needing victory over Slovenia on Wednesday afternoon to qualify for the knock-out stages of the World Cup.
The Three Lions couldn't find the edge over an Algeria side who were desperate not to lose knowing they'd go out of the competition. And while England struggled to create any real opportunties, the North Africans kept them under pressure throughout, sensing an upset.
Fabio Capello made three changes from the team that started against USA six days ago. Gareth Barry returned to central midfield at the expense of Aston Villa midfielder James Milner, with skipper Steven Gerrard playing on the left. David James was selected ahead of Rob Green and Jamie Carragher continued in the absence of the injured Ledley King.
The first sign of goal came as the the Algerian 'keeper M'Bohli scuffed a clearance straight to the feet of Rooney. Gerrard drove through on the left but his cross was cut out at the near post.
Ashley Cole overlapped superbly moments later and looked clean through on goal but was dispossessed as he attempted to turn in on his right foot.
It was then the turn of Algeria to turn up the heat as Ziani began to take control of the midfield. Carragher almost turned the ball into his own net from a Ziani cross, and David James had to be alert to fist away a looping ball under pressure from Matmour.
Rooney and Gerrard combined on the half hour mark to get a fierce shot on goal from the Liverpool midfielder. M'Bohli did well to cling on to the effort.
M'Bohli did even better two minutes later to prevent Frank Lampard opening the scoring. Lennon fired a dangerous cross that Heskey couldn't get on the end of, Lampard controlled the rebound with his chest and shot across goal with his left foot only for M'Bohli to clutch the ball with two hands.
Rooney hit another shot from distance with two minutes of the half remaining, but the Algerian stopper was equal once more.
With neither side making changes at the interval, England continued to nervously seek an opening. Lampard stole the ball deep in the Algerian half and played Gerrard through on the right, but just as he did in the first half the attackers didn't anticipate the cross being cut back and the chance went away.
Capello brought Shaun Wright-Phillips on for Aaron Lennon and later switched Jermain Defoe for Emile Heskey.
Defoe almost got on the end of a chance immediately after coming on the pitch, as Gerrard and Lampard combined superbly but before the Tottenham forward could pull the trigger the ball had gone.
Peter Crouch replaced Gareth Barry with ten minutes remaining as England sought the crucial winning goal.
However, Defoe's drive from 25 yards was the best England could muster, but it drifted over the bar and the chance for three valuable points was gone.