England return for Crouch not such tall order
Stoke City 1 Manchester City 1
Peter Crouch perhaps did not need to go as far as proving his handling skills to Roy Hodgson in order to remind the England manager of what he and the national team are currently missing, but the Stoke City forward is clearly irked by his ongoing absence from the international stage.
By earning Stoke a point against champions Manchester City with a goal at the Britannia Stadium which, according to Roberto Mancini, "belonged to the NBA", Crouch delivered a timely response to Hodgson's midweek assertion that the 31-year-old had placed himself in the international wilderness by refusing to accept a place in the stand-by squad for Euro 2012.
Uncapped since scoring as a substitute in the 2-1 defeat against France at Wembley in November 2010, Crouch (right) endured the role of spare part in five subsequent squads under Fabio Capello until he chose to reject Hodgson's invitation last May to claim a place in his Euro 2012 plans.
Crouch, all arms, legs and robotic movement, has always been an acquired taste, but 22 goals in 42 England games provide his credentials in black-and-white, and despite Hodgson's insistence that the former Liverpool and Tottenham striker will now only be considered if his form makes it impossible for him to be ignored -- shouldn't that be the criteria for everybody? -- Crouch claims there is a necessity to set the record straight on his 'outcast' status.
The key point, from Crouch's perspective, is that Hodgson was incorrect in suggesting that he had rejected a place on the Euro 2012 stand-by list.
"It wasn't a case of me being a standby. He wanted me to play in one of the friendlies before the tournament and then go home. I was bitterly disappointed, and I think understandably so," said Crouch.
Despite being overlooked in favour of the likes of Jermain Defoe, Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll for the recent World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, Crouch insists he has no axe to grind with Hodgson over his comments and claims he remains available for selection.
"I have no grudges about that at all and, if I get a chance to play for my country again, I'll grab it," he said.
Crouch's opener against City, his third goal in three games, should have been ruled out for handball -- "It hit my hand, I'm not going to lie to you,' he said -- but Mancini's defenders should have cleared the danger long before Crouch was left to score past goalkeeper Joe Hart from six yards.
Defensively, City remain a concern for Mancini, particularly ahead of tomorrow's Champions League clash with Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, but going forward, they appear more potent than ever and they should have scored more than Javi Garcia's 35th-minute header.
Brazilian full-back Maicon, Samir Nasri and Garcia again, whose bullet header was brilliantly saved by Asmir Begovic, all went close to claiming the victory for City before substitute Edin Dzeko almost snatched the points in the final seconds of stoppage time.
The Bosnian forward's lob over Begovic was goal-bound, but Ryan Shawcross somehow hooked the ball off the line to keep it out of the net.
It was a clearance that denied City their first win at Stoke since a League One victory in 1999 and Mancini suggested the two clubs should not even bother playing this fixture next season, such is the predictability of the outcome. "It is better next year we don't come, we take one point each and we stay at home," Mancini said. "We won't spend any money on the hotel." (© Daily Telegraph, London)