Last Friday (September 7) England bested an amateur Moldova 0-5. It was a perfect start to their FIFA World Cup 2014 campaign, even if the team they were up against seemed no better than the average Sunday League squad. So heading into last night's (September 11) match against Ukraine, spirits were high in Wembley Stadium, with fans believing they would see a glimmer of the dominant play England displayed in the opening qualifying round.
Unfortunately, England seemed to come slightly unstuck when up against a team capable of kicking the ball, the rapturous home support for the Lions doing nothing to dissuade a cool Ukrainian squad, who spent the duration of the first half taking advantage of England's sloppy defending. But England had their chances; in the 10th minute, Jermaine Defoe struck the ball into the bottom-left corner with incredible ferocity, but it was disallowed by the referee, who had already blown his whistle after the Spurs striker had pushed his hand into the throat of Yarmolenko, who typically fell to the floor holding his completely untouched face. The England squad protested accordingly.
Tom Cleverley also had plenty of chances to shine, missing the golden opportunities set before him including a disastrous miss in the 33rd minute, when skipper Steven Gerrard struck a fine cross into the box and onto the head of Defoe, who miscued his header straight onto the feet of the Manchester United midfielder. But in a situation where it seemed more unlikely for the 23-year-old to miss, he shot it directly at goalkeeper Pyatov. The irony of Tom's surname isn't lost on Twitter's football supporters.
But Ukraine didn't lack confidence in front of goal, as a tremendous curled shot in the 39th minute by Konoplyanka beat goalkeeper Joe Hart and made it 0-1, giving the away team the lead going into the break.
The second half saw England play a conservative game of possession, as Lescott and Jagielka passed it back and forth to one another as the rest of the squad struggled to find space. Manchester United teammate Welbeck replaced Cleverley in the 63rd minute, inspiring hope that attacking play may recommence as time ticked away and it began to look more and more likely that Wembley would be the home for England's first defeat in their World Cup 2014 campaign.
Welbeck's first chance on goal, in the 82nd minute no less, couldn't have been more perfectly placed for him. Six yards from the goal following a nice bit of play from Sturridge and Gerrard, it seemed like Welbeck could do nothing but score. However, as his awkward shot hit the left post and went out for a goal kick, it instead counted as England's second baffling miss of the game. Two minutes later and Welbeck had ran into the box in order to make amends, but trips over Garmash's leg. There was a confrontation as the England squad insisted that it should have been a penalty, but it's not to be.
However, the Lions ARE awarded a penalty in the 86th minute, after a handball in the box from Khacheridi gives England the chance to equalise. Frank Lampard stepped up to the plate and hammered it home, making it 1-1. Lampard is the only man in the England squad who you trust will hit the back of the net when he steps up to the spot.
But the drama isn't over there, as in the 88th minute captain Steven Gerrard, who up until that point had put in a Man of the Match worthy performance, was shown his second yellow card of the game following a silly challenge on Garmash. The red card he was shown was rivaled only by the colour of manager Roy Hodgson's face, who had spent the duration of the match seemingly having hot flushes on the sidelines whilst envisaging headlines such as "England Fail to Impress in World Cup Qualifier".
So the match ended a disappointing 1-1 draw, with England STILL lacking the conviction to convert their chances, and Steven Gerrard being sent off for the first time in his international career. This all leaves England fans asking the same question: can't we just play Moldova again..?
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