Montenegro vs. England: 5 Things We Learned from World Cup Qualifier

Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterMarch 26, 2013

Montenegro vs. England: 5 Things We Learned from World Cup Qualifier

0 of 5

    England could only draw 1-1 against Montenegro despite dominating the first half of their World Cup qualifier in Podgorica.

    Wayne Rooney opened the scoring in the sixth minute after hitting the post with a delightful chip in the early stages of the game.

    But a rejuvenated Montenegro emerged after the interval and eventually struck a deserved equaliser with 14 minutes remaining through substitute Dejan Damjanovic.

    The point means Montenegro still lead Group H by two points over second-placed England, but wins for both Poland and Ukraine mean both teams have closed the gap on Roy Hodgson's side to four points.

    But what have we learned from the game in Podgorica? Read on to find out.

Wayne Rooney Is an Outstanding Striker

1 of 5

    Wayne Rooney might not be the top striker at Manchester United, where he is in the shadow of Robin van Persie, but he remains a fearsome weapon for England.

    The forward played a lone role up front against Montenegro and left their central defenders Miodrag Dzudovic and Marko Basa dazed by his running in a dazzling first half.

    Rooney served notice of his intentions with a fine chip, which hit the post early on, before taking full advantage of a lack of marking by heading home Steven Gerrard's sixth-minute corner.

    However, the Old Trafford forward was required for more defensive duties as England battled to repel the Montenegrins after half-time.

England Do Not Possess the Killer Instinct of a Top Side

2 of 5

    England were in danger of overrunning Montenegro in the first half in Podgorica, with full-backs Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole attacking at will down the flanks and Wayne Rooney producing an excellent display in his lone forward role.

    Michael Carrick had dictated the game in midfield, but only Rooney's header separated the two sides at the interval, and the world and his wife knew that Montenegro would not allow themselves to be quite so submissive in the second period.

    A second and third goal were required to see off the hosts, but England could not provide it and paid a heavy penalty in the second half as they clung on to a single point when three were within their grasp 45 minutes earlier.

    Roy Hodgson needs to find a deadly touch for his team to close down the two-point gap on Montenegro before the end of the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Roy Hodgson Left His Substitutions Far, Far Too Late

3 of 5

    England might have been impressive in the opening 45 minutes, but the second period was a relentless onslaught from Montenegro.

    The constant pressure from the home side, willed on by their fervent supporters in Podgorica, was always going to tell, and a change was needed to provide some kind of release for the underfire visitors. Anybody could have seen that.

    But Roy Hodgson resisted any change until he swapped Ashley Young for Tom Cleverley in the immediate aftermath of Dejan Damjanovic's equaliser in the 76th minute. It was Hodgson's only change of the match.

    There appeared to be no "plan B" as an England team battered by constant waves of Montenegrin pressure eventually surrendered an equaliser.

Montenegro Coach Branko Brnovic Is a Tactical Genius

4 of 5

    Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic played mind games with England ahead of the World Cup qualifier by claiming they were "scared" of his team (via BBC Sport).

    England boss Roy Hodgson refused to become embroiled in the psychology involved, but must have felt like visiting a psychiatrist after his side's near-capitulation in the second period in Podgorica.

    Put simply, Brnovic did what Hodgson didn't for the second period and made an astute tactical switch after seeing Montenegro swamped in the first 45 minutes.

    He swapped Mitar Novakovic for Dejan Damjanovic after the break and was rewarded immediately with  stunning reversal of fortune.

    The introduction of South Korean club FC Seoul's star man changed the shape of the hosts and prevented Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole running the wings.

    Damjanovic also provided a greater link between attack and midfield for Montenegro and closed down the space England had exploited in the opening 45 minutes.

Football Hooliganism Has Not Died, It Has Just Found a New Home

5 of 5

    England supporters had been warned about the hostile atmosphere awaiting in Podgorica, but the scenes in one stand must have shocked even the hardiest of experienced travellers.

    Some England fans were once renowned as leaders in football hooliganism with chaos following the national team across Europe at major championships such as the 1998 World Cup in France and the 2000 European Championships in Belgium and the Netherlands.

    Football violence reared its ugly head again at the Podgorica City Stadium as one tier of the stand became the focal point for fighting between Montenegro fans.

    It was a horrible throwback to a forgotten time, but not unexpected after Montenegro supporters invaded the pitch after the 2-2 draw against England in 2011 and cost the country's football authority a £30,000 fine (via The Mirror).