I didn’t pay the £11.99 that would have – so outrageously – been the few had I wanted to watch England in Ukraine last night. And I’m rather glad I didn’t. Nobody could have convinced me that watching Fabio Capello’s side commit a few comical defensive blunders either side of being interrupted by a few colourful flares might have been worth the money.
One of the reasons why we always seem to come up short at the major tournaments is our capacity for cock-ups. There were a few outrageous howlers that made any attempt to come from behind very difficult indeed. England had a lucky escape early on when a piece of nonchalant defending from Rio Ferdinand, apparently rusty after his recent injury lay-off, allowed Artem Milevskiy to run through on goal. Robert Green brought him down and the West Ham goalkeeper, who apparently had ‘England’s number six’ sewn into his gloves, become the first England custodian to be sent off. Andrei Shevchenko, the victim of some fairly obviously sledging from his former Chelsea captain John Terry, managed to strike the outside of the post with the penalty.
The unfortunate Aaron Lennon was sacrificed to allow David James to come on and keep goal. His first meaningful act was to pick the ball out of the net after Sergiy Nazarenko’s shot deflected off the hapless Ashley Cole, who had earlier surrended possession in a very dangerous position, and rolled into the net. James was just as motionless when when Milevskiy hit the post with a blistering drive. England’s only clear cut chance came courtesy of Wayne Rooney played in Frank Lampard but the midfielder shot disappointingly across the face of goal.
James made a fine save from Rakytskyy’s effort after the break but England’s ten men struggled to make much of an impression on the home side. Carlton Cole looked particularly clueless when introduced as a late substitute and even if Rooney had managed to convert a late chance the point would have been undeserved.
I caught the highlights, which were barely advertised, on the Beeb late last night and spent my early evening watching an absorbing game between the Republic of Ireland and Italy. The Irish, needing a win to keep alive their hopes of reaching the World Cup automatically, took the lead through a rasping shot from Glenn Whelan but poor defending allowed Mauro Camoranesi, the smallest man on the pitch to head in from a corner. Ireland looked as if they’d done enough with a late header from Sean St. Ledger only for Alberto Gilardino to break Irish hearts with an injury-time equaliser.
UKRAINE (4-5-1): Pyatov; Kucher, Kobin, Rakitskiy, Khacheridi; Gai, Tymoschuk, Nazarenko (Yarmolenko 67), Rotan, Milevskiy; Shevchenko (Gusev 90). Subs (not used): Shovkovskiy, Voronin, Seleznyov, Shevchuk, Mykhalyk.
BOOKED: Kobin, Khacheridi, Tymoschuk, Rotan.
GOAL: Nazarenko (29).
ENGLAND (4-5-1): Green; Johnson, A. Cole, Ferdinand, Terry; Carrick, Lampard, Gerrard (Milner 45), Lennon (James 15), Rooney; Heskey. Subs (not used): Bridge, Upson, Barry, Agbonlahor.
SENT OFF: Green.
REFEREE: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).