Tuesday 21 November 2017

England take crucial point but technical flaws exposed in flat display

Ukraine 0 England 0

Gary Cahill was commanding in defence for England
Gary Cahill was commanding in defence for England

Henry Winter

This was one horrible performance by England, highlighting many technical flaws, but this was also one sweet qualifying point against their Group H rivals.

England were particularly indebted to Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole, masterful figures of defiance in defence, as they took a step closer towards the 2014 World Cup.

Cahill and Cole blocked and cleared, headed balls out and darted out to intercept. It was the type of display they have given for Chelsea in Europe, and Cole deserves particular credit for keeping Andriy Yarmolenko quiet.

England now host Montenegro and Poland next month when their attacking edge should be sharper than last night, for all Rickie Lambert's selfless movement.

Wayne Rooney will be available after his cut forehead, Daniel Sturridge fit after his thigh problem and Danny Welbeck free from suspension. Things are looking up. England are looking more towards Brazil.

Heartache

England's last visit to the Olympic Stadium had brought only heartache. England fans stepped back into the scene of the team's Euro 2012 quarter-final exit (against Italy) to "Highway to Hell" and "Welcome to the Jungle."

The visitors had their chances in the first half. They gave the ball away too cheaply, but still managed to create some hope in the final third. The concern had been that Lambert might become isolated, but he dropped off well after two minutes to flick on to Theo Walcott. The Arsenal attacker tore into the box, winning a corner as Andriy Pyatov threw himself at his feet.

Ukraine stepped up the pressure, but they lacked a really sharp cutting edge. Roman Zozulya failed to exploit the good approach work of Yevhen Konoplyanka in particular. Ukraine's centre-forward could not escape Cahill, who intervened brilliantly to cut out one ball destined for Zozulya.

Roy Hodgson sent on Ashley Young in the 66th minute, removing the disappointing Jack Wilshere and moving James Milner inside. Young promptly gave the ball away, catching the England disease quickly. Kyle Walker's uncomfortable evening continued on 70 minutes when he was caught the wrong side of Zozulya and brought the striker down just outside the box.

Much to England's relief, Konoplyanka's free-kick deflected for a corner.

As Ukraine mounted a late siege, Hodgson sent on Tom Cleverley for Walcott with three minutes remaining and the visitors held out for a crucial point. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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