Frank and to the point
Tuesday, 11 September, 2012
A late penalty from Frank Lampard earns a draw for England against Ukraine
by Nicholas Veevers at Wembley Stadium
England’s World Cup qualifying campaign was almost dealt a blow at Wembley as a late penalty from the ever-reliable Frank Lampard rescued a draw against an impressive Ukraine team.
A draw was probably a fair result on reflection, with England’s territorial domination equalled out by a Ukrainian side who looked particularly threatening when on the counter-attack.
It was what Hodgson had warned his squad about ahead of the match and is something that the Three Lions are well used to over the previous campaigns. But Ukraine certainly didn’t arrive at Wembley with the sole intention of ‘parking the bus’. They could quite easily have been more than one goal ahead before England’s late pressure ended in Lampard’s leveller.
Ukraine boss Oleh Blokhin will be delighted with all of his players though, who put in an organised and solid performance from back to front and will be a tough team to beat for any nation in Group H over the campaign.
In fact, it was Ukraine who came closest to opening the scoring after a high-tempo start to the game when Oleh Gusev's attempted cross from the left deflected off Leighton Baines and nearly caught Joe Hart out, clipping the post as it bounced wide.
Gusev then beat Baines again and England were fortunate that Glen Johnson was alert to the danger by clearing his resulting cross from within a crowded area and with Ukranian runners abound.
It was Johnson who created England's first opening at the other end too, racing down the right before cutting into the area, only for his low centre to be cleared just before reaching Jermain Defoe.
England thought they had the lead in the tenth minute, when Defoe collected a pass before turning towards goal and firing an unstoppable shot past Andriy Pyatov. However, Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir had spotted a relatively innocuous foul by the Spurs man in holding off Andriy Yarmolenko in the build-up and the strike was duly chalked off.
Again it was the visitors who edged closer to breaking the deadlock though, as Anatoliy Tymoshchuk nipped the ball off Tom Cleverley to set up a counter-attack. They worked it across to Ruslan Rotan on the left hand side of the area and his shot was blocked by a combination of Steven Gerrard and Hart.
England came as close as they’d been in the 34th minute though, when Gerrard’s delivery into the area was headed back across the six-yard box by Defoe for Cleverley, but his shot from close range was somehow blocked by Pyatov on the goal-line.
Five minutes later, Ukraine took a deserved lead though as Yevhen Konoplianka received the ball on the left and after cutting inside Gerrard, unleashed an ferocious strike past Hart and into the top corner.
Cleverley had another opportunity to make amends for his earlier miss just before the break when Lampard pulled the ball back to him from the right, but the Manchester United man didn’t quite connect fully and his shot drifted wide of the post.
Less than a minute later, Cleverley came even closer as James Milner tricked the Ukraine defence before picking him out in the area. His snap-shot was good but bounced off the outside of the post and wide.
England had to up the ante in the second half, but again it was Ukraine who should have extended their lead when Konoplianka out-paced Phil Jagielka to cross, with Baines back in the nick of time to clear the danger under pressure from Roman Zozulia.
Hodgson made his first change of the night when Danny Welbeck was introduced in place of his Manchester United team-mate Cleverley to support Defoe in attack and he gave England an added spark in the final third.
Another foraging run forward from Johnson in the 68th minute brought a low left-footer, which was sliding towards the bottom corner until Pyatov got down at full stretch to make a smart save.
It was then Welbeck’s turn to strike the post as he controlled fellow sub Daniel Sturridge’s cross superbly, but his instinctive shot goalwards pinged back to safety for Ukraine.
Welbeck then appeared to be felled in the area, only for Cakir to rule that appeal out, but with five minutes to go, he had no choice but to point to the spot when the United striker's clever flick in the box was handled by Yevgen Khacheridi as the striker advanced past him.
Lampard followed up his spot-kick success from Friday night in Moldova by blasting the ball past Pyatov to bring England back level and prevent what could have been a costly defeat.
The momentum which England had built-up going into the last few minutes was then scotched, as Gerrard collected his second caution of the game and a red card to stifle what could have been an interesting end to the match. A late foul by Johnson also resulted in a booking, meaning the Liverpool pair will both miss the next game.
So, it was a point apiece and a result that Ukraine will undoubtedly be pleased with but for England, it’s now onto San Marino in October where they will be hoping to get back on track.