A magnificent win, against all the odds, sees
qualify for the knockout stage of the European Championships of 2012.
Not only that but they topped their group as
The expectations of the team at the start of the
tournament was probably as low as it can get, but the players have
knuckled down and they have reaped the rewards for all the hard work
they have put in.
With Wayne Rooney's selection
ahead of Andy Carroll being the only change from the Swedish game by
manager Roy Hodgson, the continuity of a side in form was maintained.
In the early stages of this game against the
both teams had a tentative look at each other.
co-hosts and backed by an army of fans that outnumbered the
fans by 8 to 1, looked to fire in a shot at every opportunity. Yevhen
Konoplyanka was the first to try his luck and he was closely followed
by an effort from Denys Garmash.
Both shots flew well over and Joe Hart was untroubled.
were surrendering possession to their hosts but defending in numbers
and stifling anything that threatened their goal.
Rooney had to wait over five minutes for his
first proper touch and it was soon obvious that he was match rusty as
twice his control let him down.
The match was being played at a very slow pace, which suited
England, but John Terry made an
excellent block to thwart one Ukraine
shot. Another home attack
ended with a shot over the bar, this after an error by Ashley Young,
whilst at the other end a trademark Steven Gerrard free-kick almost
set Rooney up. In the end
goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov somehow scooped the ball away for a corner.
enjoying the bulk of the possession it was
who had the best scoring chance to date.
In the 27th minute a superb cross from the left by Young saw
Rooney make space for himself well to receive the cross.
It looked the perfect return for the Manchester United star as
he would surely score. But
again his rustiness showed and he put his free header wide.
Two minutes later and the
put a good attack together which ended with Andriy Yarmolenko forcing
Hart into a low diving save.
were on top, but England
had that comfortable air about them, with Terry and Joleon Lescott
shoring up the middle whilst Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole were playing
well at full-back. Hart
was largely untroubled and for all their efforts
lacked ideas and they still had it all to do at the break.
It would be interesting to see how the second
half panned out, because a goal to either team would change things
dramatically at this stage, and would you believe it
made a breakthrough just two minutes into the second half.
Once again it was the skipper who set up the goal.
Gerrard picked the ball up wide on the right and forged his way
past a defender to cross the ball.
To be honest it looked a pretty innocuous centre, but the ball
took a couple of slight deflections and the goalkeeper completely
messed it up leaving the jubilant Rooney free at the far post to nod
the ball in from a yard out.
It was probably the easiest goal of his career, but it was just
the tonic England
For the next few minutes the
pushed forward and managed to force several corners.
None of which produced anything too dangerous as
continued to defend in a disciplined manner.
The discipline was certainly the feature of
England's play and there were few
occasions when the home side threatened Hart's goal.
He did have to tip one shot over, but that was a comfortable
save. And then from one
Ukraine corner Gerrard, showing all his outstanding qualities
throughout this match, intercepted the ball and chased out to the
right before spotting Rooney's run and hitting a brilliant first time
pass to send the striker away.
A fitter and sharper Rooney would probably have gone directly
towards goal, but alas he ran out of steam after a lung-bursting 60
yard run, and in the end checked back to tee up the incoming James
Milner. He mishit his shot
and the chance was gone.
On the hour mark, Ukraine missed their best
chance when a close range header from Artem Milevskij flew over.
There was a hint of offside there and the same could be said in
the Ukraine's next attack.
Marko Devic eventually gained possession just inside the area having
outpaced Terry. He seemed
certain to score as he side-stepped Hart and shot for goal.
Hart brilliantly half-stopped the ball but it still looped
towards goal. Credit Terry
at that moment as the defender never gave up on it and managed to
fly-kick the ball away from goal.
What he didn't know was that the ball appeared to already be
over the line, but for once England were given the slice of luck that
has so evaded them over the past umpteen years and umpteen
tournaments, as the line judge didn't give a goal.
Poetic justice, without a doubt, not only with the Frank
Lampard Blomfontein World Cup incident still fresh in all our minds,
but also in the fact that initially the Ukraine forward was well
offside when the ball was played forward.
Two minutes after that incident Scott Parker was
brought down on the edge of the Ukraine box after another swift
breakaway attack from England.
Rooney took the kick but the ball went the wrong side of the
post. Ukraine still
pressed forward, although there was little conviction in their play.
To me it seemed that they were a little overawed by the
reputation of England and although they created a couple of
half-chances the England defenders were more than comfortable with the
situation. In fact on 67
minutes England nearly scored a second goal when a right-wing cross
eventually landed at Cole's feet.
He turned smartly and fired in a good shot only to see Pyatov
make a fine save. That
would have been nice for Cole to score his first goal in this his 97th
appearance for his country.
With just over 20 minutes to go Hodgson made his
first change as Theo Walcott replaced the tiring Milner.
Ukraine brought on their main man, former Chelsea star, Andriy
Shevchenko, but his main contribution to the game was a dreadful
tackle on Young, for which the Ukranian was rightly booked.
the play swung from end to end, Gerrard was unluckily booked, and then
Hart was almost deceived by a wicked dipping and swerving shot from
Manchester City player's big left-hand getting him out of trouble
before Lescott completed the clearance.
That was to be the last real chance for the hosts as England
safely negotiated the last part of the match.
Carroll came on for the disappointing Danny Welbeck, and it
might have been a better idea for Hodgson to bring the big man on a
little earlier, as immediately he began to ruffle the Ukraine defence
with his extra energy. But
no matter, the challenge had been faced and the job was done.
There were some jubilant England faces on that
pitch at the end and how they had earned their passage through to the
next round. There were
some very good performances too, with Gerrard and Terry being the pick
of the team. Now, as group
winners, they face Italy in Kiev.
It should be fun again as there is so much to play for!