Thursday 22 February 2018

Welbeck ban takes shine off stroll

England 4 Moldova 0

England's Danny Welbeck reacts after a missed chance on goal during the World Cup Qualifying, Group H match at Wembley Stadium, London.
England's Danny Welbeck reacts after a missed chance on goal during the World Cup Qualifying, Group H match at Wembley Stadium, London.

England rose to top of Group H but victory came at a cost. Danny Welbeck collected two goals but also a yellow card which rules him out of their crucial game with Ukraine on Tuesday.

Otherwise this was a satisfactory night. Steven Gerrard scored and was good throughout. Rickie Lambert continued to enjoy his late-starting international career, making it two in two. Poland's draw with Montenegro also was a positive for England.

This had been the last of the straightforward games for England. They now head to Kiev with Hodgson knowing he has to make changes. England will definitely be without Welbeck, who was cautioned by the Slovak referee for kicking the ball away after the whistle had blown for offside.

Hodgson was furious at Ivan Kruzliak's decision, venting his frustration at the fourth official, clearly indicating that he had been planning to start Welbeck in Kiev, either out wide where he played last night or through the middle in place of Lambert. Whether Hodgson is adventurous and persists with two attacking players out wide, Theo Walcott and another flier like Ashley Young, remains to be seen.

Hodgson is a cautious coach and the likes of James Milner are an option if he wants to be more defensive. Milner eventually came on last night, taking up a place on the left, hinting that will be Hodgson's choice on Tuesday. A point is the minimum requirement in Kiev yet Hodgson could ultimately look back and rue not being bolder against Ukraine, whose ruthless side was seen against San Marino last night. They will be formidable at home, exploiting any hesitancy from England.

Hodgson would probably take a draw now, then focusing on beating Montenegro and Poland at home. It's a gamble. The views of Jan Tomaszewski, England's nemesis here 40 years ago, will doubtless be sought eagerly.

Hodgson was not taking any chances with Kruzliak and withdrew Ashley Cole, the other player at risk of suspension, at the break in place of Leighton Baines.

England managers are paid to make the right changes, enforced or tactical. The vicissitudes of form and fitness had ensured that Hodgson's team was much changed from the 5-0 win in Chisinau a year ago; Glen Johnson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were injured, Jermain Defoe not deemed sharp enough to start, Baines, Milner and Tom Cleverley began on the bench while Joleon Lescott did not even make the squad and John Terry had retired.

Irish Independent

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