Young rescues calamitous English from Swiss shock
England 2 Switzerland 2
England dropped two Group G points at home to unfancied Switzerland, though after starting the game with the wrong team and a much too cautious approach, rescuing a draw felt like a minor victory after going two goals down in the first half.
Had Darren Bent finished more reliably in the absence of the suspended Wayne Rooney England could easily have had all three points, such was the extent of their recovery once Ashley Young and Stewart Downing were added to the attack.
Barring any more nasty surprises like the manner of both Swiss goals and how close Admir Mehmedi came to snatching a winner right at the end, the key fixture in deciding who qualifies automatically from the group is still likely to be England's visit to Montenegro in October. This disappointing result, and performance, just puts that bit more pressure on England ahead of their next competitive match, in Bulgaria a month earlier.
Considering Switzerland are supposed to have problems in the goalscoring department they managed to give Joe Hart's goal a peppering in the first half hour. They did not manage a goal from open play, so perhaps that is the problem, yet Hart was required to make stops from Eren Derdiyok, Gokhan Inler and Xherdan Shaqiri in the opening 20 minutes, the middle one a particularly important save as the Swiss captain's shot had taken a significant late deflection off Rio Ferdinand.
Diego Benaglio in the visitors' goal did have to make the first save of the game, when a Frank Lampard corner found Glen Johnson at the far post in the second minute, yet after that he was mostly a spectator.
The trouble from England's point of view seemed to be the surprise choice of James Milner and Theo Walcott ahead of Young and Downing was not really working from either an attacking or defensive point of view. The amount of time both spent tracking back into their own half suggested they had been told to help out the back four, yet Switzerland were still doing most of the pressing.
The England attack was ineffective because Bent was effectively playing up front on his own. Not only that, but a couple of poor touches and one wasted opportunity from a Scott Parker interception suggested he might not be having one of his better days.
Things looked up for England when Ferdinand headed narrowly over from Lampard's cross on the half hour, yet within a couple of minutes the Swiss took the lead. It was the sort of silly goal that should never be conceded at international level, yet all too often is by England.
Tranquillo Barnetta swung in a free-kick, Ferdinand and Johan Djourou jumped for the ball and missed, and Hart realised too late that it was going to be up to him to cover the bottom corner of the goal.
Never let it be said that England are a team who do things by halves, however. Almost unbelievably, they let the same thing happen again three minutes later. The aghast expression had hardly left Fabio Capello's face from the first time when Parker brought down Reto Ziegler and Barnetta stepped up again to make Hart look even more foolish at his near post. The goalkeeper did not get much protection from a wall (Milner and Walcott) that obligingly parted to let the shot through, yet even so he was caught unprepared by the accuracy of Barnetta's shot.
Capello now looked as if he was going to explode, but at least England pulled back a goal before the interval, Lampard scoring from the spot after Djourou had brought down Jack Wilshere in the area.
The Italian sent on Young for the second half, not for Walcott or Milner, but for Lampard. Young stationed himself ahead of Parker and Wilshere in a more central and more advanced position than Lampard had occupied. The coach deserves credit for correcting his earlier mistake and making the switch, whatever the formational theory, because Young scored an excellent equaliser after five minutes on the pitch, sweeping a crisp low shot past Benaglio after Leighton Baines had laid back Milner's cross.
At least England were doing most of the attacking now and when Walcott made a darting run into the area Young scooped a shot over the bar a little wastefully from the edge of the box. That was nothing, however, compared with the sitter Bent missed after Benaglio spilled Young's shot in his direction to leave the striker a clear sight of an open goal.
It was the moment for Bent to seize his fourth England goal, repay Capello's faith in him and finally establish a reputation for clinical rather than erratic finishing, and Wembley groaned as one when he shinned the ball over the bar.
Young could not convert a more difficult chance off Milner before the end, but Bent's miss will be remembered for costing England two points.
Let's hope Rooney's rug rethink is more convincing than his striking replacement, though if blame is ultimately to be apportioned, the unnecessary yellow card in Wales that allowed Rooney to book a hair appointment instead of helping ensure qualification might be the best place to start.
Sunday Indo Sport