England clinch Finals spot
Friday, 07 October, 2011
Draw is enough to secure place at UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
by Stuart Mawhinney in Podgorica
England have qualified for the UEFA EURO 2012 Finals in Poland and Ukraine following their 2-2 draw with Montenegro in Podgorica on Friday evening.
Fabio Capello's men went into the game knowing that a point would be good enough to secure their place in the Finals and it seemed they were all set to win the game with half-time approaching, as goals from Ashley Young and Darren Bent had put them firmly in the driving seat.
However, Montenegro struck back just before half-time to give themselves a life-line before putting in an improved second-half performance and finding themselves with a man advantage following the sending off of Wayne Rooney.
Montenegro duly found a deserved equaliser in the dying stages to spark wild scenes of celebration in Podgorica as they sealed a play-off place themselves with the result.
It had all started brightly for England too, as they forced a string of corners in the first ten minutes before Rooney picked out Theo Walcott on the right and his excellent centre was headed home at the far post by Young.
Young then turned provider in the 31st minute when Rooney found him on the left and after advancing into the box, his pass across the area was perfect for Bent to finish from close range.
England's tempo and possession had them in complete control of the game and as the first-half petred out, it looked as though it might turn into a comfortable evening for Capello's side.
But this is international football and just seconds before the break, the hosts got themselves back into it as Elsad Zverotic brought down a pass in the area before shooting at goal. The ball took a deflection off the back of Gary Cahill's leg and just crept past Joe Hart at the near post.
That goal gave the fervent home crowd the lift they needed and they emerged for the second half looking like a different team. Within five minutes of the re-start, Hart had to save from Fatos Beciraj's low left-footer and they then had a strong shout for a penalty turned down when Steven Jovetic tumbled under Phil Jones' challenge.
England were then dealt a blow in the 73rd minute when Rooney lost out in a tussle with defender and kicked-out in frustration, giving referee Wolfgang Stark little option but to send him off.
With a man advantage and growing momentum behind them, Montenegro ended the game strongly and Hart had to make a fine save at full-stretch to turn Milorad Pekovic's bobbling shot around the post.
Jovetic then fell in the area under another Jones challenge to try and claim a desperate late penalty, but this time he was cautioned for simulation as full-time drew nearer.
The equaliser finally came though, as Stefan Savic crossed from the right to the far post and Andrija Delibasic climbed highest at the far post to emphatically head home and send the home fans wild.
With the news of Switzerland's defeat in Wales having filtered through to the supporters, they knew that a point would be good enough to see them finish in second place, so there were scenes of jubilation at the final whistle whilst England could also leave with satisfaction at their job being complete too.