England struggle to 1-1 draw against Ukraine
England was brought back down to earth with a bump after it struggled to a 1-1 against Ukraine at Wembley last night.
Confidence was high after the five-goal thrashing of Moldova on Friday, but Roy Hodgson’s men didn’t possess the same attacking vigour and fluidity against a disciplined Ukraine team.
It was the visitors who dominated much of the possession in the opening half, and nearly took the lead when Oleg Gusev’s deflected cross beat Joe Hart, but not the upright.
However, one piece on England dominance saw Jermaine Defoe strike a crisp 20-yard strike beyond Andriy Pyatov, but saw his effort disallowed for a foul in the build-up.
Further chances would come England’s way after this, and the best ones came to Manchester United’s Tom Cleverly; he wasted a glorious chance by shooting directly at Pyatov after Defoe had played Steven Gerrard’s cross into his path.
Moments later, the Wembley crowd was silenced after Konoplianka struck a wonderful curling effort from 25 yards straight into Hart’s top corner, leaving the Manchester City keeper helpless.
Hodgson wouldn’t have needed reminding that the last time England lost a qualifying game at Wembley was that fateful night against Croatia in 2007 and he tried to change the emphasis by throwing on Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tom Cleverly.
And it was Welbeck who made the biggest impact: as he tried to control a bouncy ball, his touch bounced off Yevgen Khacherdi, leaving Chelsea’s Frank Lampard to level the scores from the penalty spot and save his country’s blushes.
There was one final blemish on the game, as captain Steven Gerrard saw red for a second bookable offence late on.
After the game, England boss Roy Hodgson remained confident his side can qualify for Rio. He said: “I was very pleased with many of the aspects of the play tonight.”
“I leave Wembley a lot more confident that we have a group of players who will take this England team to Rio.”
“At the end of the day, we have had two youngsters starting the game. They have come off and we have replaced them with three other youngsters,” continued the England boss.
“We have a whole team off the field who, under normal circumstances, would have been competing for places.”
England host San Marino in its next qualifier, before heading to Poland as it continues its quest to qualify for Rio 2014.