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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

England 2 Ukraine 1

Wembley on April Fools' day and England have a chance of securing a place at the World Cup without dropping a point. Milan team mates Beckham and Shevchenko both start the game on the bench.
England are struggling for a front-pairing after Wednesday's match, Rooney and Crouch being the preferred duo. On seven minutes Gerrard and Rooney combined for an audacious overhead kick from Rooney that didn't miss by far and showed both his intent and invention. Only two minutes later Gareth Barry earned himself a rare England yellow card for a cynical although not a dangerous tackle. Aaron Lennon's first foray into enemy territory resulted in a dangerous cross which didn't quite manage to find an England head but drew gasps of appreciation from the crowd. On 14 minutes, Rooney was brought down on the edge of the box, with no Beckham to take the kick, Gerrard narrowly placed his shot round the outside of the far goalpost.
The start of the game was cautious but there was enough creative play to indicate that this should be a game which would eventually yield some goals.
It was Crouch just under the half hour who scored from a corner headed to him by John Terry, swiveling in the air, he demonstrated his agility striking the ball against the keeper into the net and celebrated with the now infamous robotic celebration.
Ten minutes from the end of the half, Lennon once more received the ball wide and placed another great ball onto Rooney's foot only to see the volleyed effort sail over the bar - a strike which if it had been on target would have been one of the best England goals I have ever seen. In the last minute of the first half, Lennon, Rooney and Gerrard combined for Gerrard to have a crack from the edge of the box, the chance was smothered by the 'keeper' as England maintain the pressure. England take a one-nil lead into the second half, but there are surely more goals left in this game?
The second half started with the same line-ups for both sides, and with Lennon's promising start, there was no need for Beckham at this stage. Shevchenko was warming up early off the pitch as Rooney was getting hot under the collar on the pitch. having failed to win a free kick after being heavily tackled by no less than four Ukraine players, he was immediately penalised for exacting his own retribution. He let his feet do the talking and danced through the midfield, placing a shot just wide of the Ukrainian goalpost. More pressure followed from England as Sheva prepared to take the field in an attempt to change Ukranian fortunes replacing Voronin. Almost immediately, Beckham came on to replace Lennon on 57 minutes, it was unclear whether the standing ovation was for Lennon's contribution or the anticipated contribution from Beckham. In fairness, Lennon had not done too much wrong and probably deserved a longer spell on the pitch. Just four minutes later the determination of Rooney won another free-kick on the edge of the box and Beckham stepped up. The resulting shot dipped a little too late and brushed the top of the net on it's way over the top.
A needless free-kick on 70 minutes was given away by John Terry who pushed Shevchenko and led to a goalmouth scramble and an equaliser from Sheva himself. England paid the penalty for not pushing home their advantage at an earlier stage and although Ukraine rarely threatened, the danger is always there if you don't finish the opposition off. Shortly after the Ukraine goal, Wright-Phillips came on for England goal-scorer Peter Crouch. Another Beckham free-kick on 83 minutes failed to penetrate as sloppiness and fatigue came into play for both teams. Beckham won himself a free-kick in the last 5 minutes - he placed the ball in the usual danger area and Gerrard's header found John terry lingering with intent to neatly place the ball in the net with his left foot. Almost immediately Beckham received a needless booking for kicking the ball away, but the relief of the second goal was felt all around the ground.
The result matched the performance, England deserved the win, and in the end Capello made better decisions than the Ukranian manager - five qualifiers, five wins nobody can fail to be impressed with those statistics and England are looking like a world power in football once again.

1 comment:

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