Lions held in Herning
Wednesday, 15 June, 2011
Frustrating night for Three Lions as Ukraine cling on for draw.
by Jamie Bradbury in Herning
Defences were the winner in Herning on Wednesday night as neither England or Ukraine could find the decisive goal to edge this tight Group B encounter.
Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck both had chances for England, while Yevhen Konoplyanka and Roman Zozulya came close for the Ukrainians, but the 'keepers, Frank Fielding and Anton Kanibolotskiy, were equal to anything that came their way.
It now means that England go into Sunday’s game against Czech Republic needing three points to reach the semi-finals.
England started brightly though and it was Sturridge who showed the swagger that Stuart Pearce was looking for after the draw with Spain, as he collected the ball from deep with less than five minutes played and made a forward run before being brought down for a foul.
It was Ukraine and their forward Denys Garmash, who scored against the Three Lions in the 2009 European U19 Championship Final, who had the game’s first real attempt. He struck from 25 yards after a strong run, but a deflection took the ball well wide of Fielding’s goal.
Fielding was tested minutes later though, doing well to scramble across his goal to beat out a low drive from Konoplyanka. Ryan Bertrand was then fouled defending the rebound as Maxym Biliy looked to pounce.
Ukraine were looking lively as England struggled to get a foothold in the opening half-hour. Sturridge was the most threatening player in a white shirt and almost showed what he is capable of on 32 minutes. Bringing down a high ball 30 yards out, he sent a vicious dipping volley over the head of Kanibolotskiy. But with the Dnipro keeper well beaten, the ball smashed the cross-bar and bounced away to safety.
It sparked the best period for Pearce’s side as they finished the half on top. A good England move started by Jordan Henderson and Welbeck almost ended with a chance for Jack Rodwell on the edge of the area. But as the Everton midfielder tried to craft space for a shot, he was crowded out.
Welbeck’s tireless work closing down defenders, evident against the Spanish, then won the ball back for England and allowed Danny Rose to sweep a cross-field ball to Sturridge, but this time his touch was awry. A silky run forward from Phil Jones, beating three players before putting Rose free on the left, almost came to something, but the Ukrainians were able to block the Spurs man’s cross off at the near post.
An ambitious long-range free-kick from Sturridge four minutes after the break, following a foul on Rodwell, gave Kaniboloyskiy something to think about but he gathered well.
Ukraine remained firm though and began to come back into the game, but any ball forward was dealt with by the impressive Jones, in the air and on the floor.
Sturridge then set Welbeck clear down the middle and he looked favourite to beat Serhiy Kryvtsov. The Shakhtar defender did well, though, putting off Welbeck and he failed to hit the target. Sturridge and Michael Mancienne also had pot shots that came no closer.
Pearce then introduced Scott Sinclair and Henri Lansbury for Rodwell and Rose and they almost had an immediate impact. The Arsenal man played the Swansea forward into the area, but he couldn’t get hold of the ball to get off a shot.
Lansbury’s energy in paid dividends for England and it took two hefty Ukrainian challenges to slow him down. But on both occasions up he got and brushed himself down.
Both sides felt the game was there for the taking. Lansbury and Sturridge almost carved out an opening with a quick passing move on around the Ukrainians box, while Zozulya almost profited from a tricky bounce that out-foxed Jones. Fielding made a great save with his feet to deny.
Lansbury was involved in everything good England were doing and when Sturridge played square pass he swerved a dangerous shot just wide.
The Chelsea man then had Kanibolotskiy at full stretch when his curler shot looked to be heading inside the post, and Chris Smalling’s header from the corner also tested the 'keeper but no one was on hand to poke home the rebound.
It was as close as England came to a goal, but with their destiny still in their hands they at least know what is required in Viborg on Sunday.