England vs. Ukraine: 6 Things We Learned from World Cup Qualifier Draw
England needed a late penalty from Frank Lampard to salvage a draw from their home fixture against Ukraine after an error-ridden performance at Wembley in the FIFA World Cup qualifying game, which perhaps taught us several things about Roy Hodgson's team.
An even first half was eventually opened up courtesy of a world-class strike from Yevhen Konoplyanka, who slipped infield and arrowed a fantastic strike into the far top corner of Joe Hart's goal.
There was not the expected launching into action at the start of the second half from the home side as they took the best part of half an hour to have a decent chance on goal.
Jermain Defoe had an effort from distance and Glen Johnson saw one shot well saved, but it took the introductions of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge to spark some kind of life into the front line. Eventually it was Welbeck who won the penalty, forcing a handball from the Ukraine defence and Lampard smashed in the equaliser.
Steven Gerrard also saw red late on for two bookable offences.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Lack of Real Creativity Despite Number of Attacking Players on the Pitch
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Roy Hodgson fielded five naturally attack-minded players in his starting XI midfield against Ukraine, but England still failed miserably at creating any kind of good quality goal-scoring chances for most of the game.
Perhaps it was a case of too many players wanting to be in the same areas, or too many not being comfortable enough on the ball, but there was an awful lot of misplaced passes and poor runs off the ball.
Tom Cleverley certainly got himself into some good positions and Steven Gerrard was fizzing the odd enterprising pass about the pitch, but overall there should have been much more coming from this team.
Clinical Edge Costing England Points
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England weren't overly creative, but they did manage to forge some chances on goal.
The majority of these seemed to fall to attacking midfielder Tom Cleverley, playing just off Jermain Defoe. Unfortunately, goal scoring has not been one of the main attributes which have lifted the Manchester United man to international recognition and he fluffed two straightforward chances to score before he also hit the post from a narrow angle.
Later on in the game, Danny Welbeck also should have done better with a chance straight in front of goal.
Ukraine are hardly formidable opponents in the overall world stage and England need to take their chances more often if they are to have a smooth passage to the World Cup.
Ukraine missed a few decent opportunities themselves; in the return game—or in Poland perhaps—England might not escape with a draw.
Lescott and Jagielka Not a Solid Long-Term Option at the Back
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With Gary Cahill apparently unfancied, Joleon Lescott was partnered in defence by former Everton teammate Phil Jagielka, while John Terry missed the game with injury.
Neither looked particularly at ease all night, with Lescott looking panicked in possession and Jagielka absolutely ripped for pace by Yevhen Konoplyanka on several occasions.
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand also seemed rather unimpressed by proceedings too, tweeting:
What a goal! Looks like Woy’s England are missing me and JT.#ComeonEngland
— Rio Ferdinand (@rio5ferdy) September 11, 2012
He later deleted the tweet.
Jermain Defoe Finally Completes 90 Minutes!
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After 51 international caps for England, Jermain Defoe can finally celebrate having completed the entire game!
In each of his first 50 games he was either taken off, substituted or came on as a sub himself.
Defoe could have been celebrating in style with his brilliant early strike—which beat Pyatov at the near post—only for the referee to give a free kick to Ukraine instead with a decidedly generous decision in favour of Yarmolenko who went to ground claiming contact from Defoe.
Michael Carrick Might as Well Buy a Wembley Season Ticket
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What's going on with Michael Carrick?
Roy Hodgson calls him back up into the squad—perhaps the best passer of a ball available to the national team at this moment in time—and then leaves him sat on the bench again while the rest of the nation watches the team give the ball away constantly.
England could certainly have done with someone with the tempo-dictating skills of Carrick on the pitch, but Hodgson clearly doesn't see the Manchester United midfielder as central to his plans at this point.
It will be interesting to see who starts against San Marino with Steven Gerrard suspended.
Roy Hodgson Has a Lot of Work to Do
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There is no getting away from the fact that this was, all things considered, a very poor home display from England.
Some have already remarked that Hodgson needs time to get the team playing his way; well, sorry to break the news but in major tournament qualifiers you don't really get the time—you hit the ground running, or you wait four years for your next turn.
Ukraine will be one of the tougher games that England have to deal with in this campaign so a point is by no means a disaster, providing they now avoid defeat when playing in Ukraine, but neither is it a solid and confidence-boosting performance or result.
Hodgson has work to do and it is time for him to prove he is capable of doing the job—England face a double header in October with games against San Marino (home) and Poland (away) and nothing less than six points should be classed as acceptable.