So Roy Hodgson was pleased with what he saw from England in their first home match of the world cup qualifying campaign, needing an 87th minute penalty from Frank Lampard to save a point against a very well organized Ukraine side, dropping the first two points in the group with a 1-1 draw.
A draw at home isn’t the end of the world; after all, even Capello’s side had their problems with Montenegro in the previous campaign while also drawing at home against Switzerland. There are still 8 matches to go, and the side should be considered as the favorites to come out of this group on top.
Still, too many problems that were conveniently forgotten after a 5-0 drubbing of Moldova, which shouldn’t be considered an indication for anything, especially not against a class side like Ukraine, who weren’t in the 2012 Euro just because they were the hosts. Tom Cleverley got all the praises in the world after the first match, but he seemed to flicker out of efficiency in the match against Ukraine, creating and missing a few close chances early on before falling out of favor with the manager, substituted in the 62 minute for Danny Welbeck.
If enthusiasm and speed got England their early chances, including a goal by Jermain Defoe that shouldn’t have been disallowed, when the visitors settled down and started having a bit of possession England looked like they did for plenty of moments in the Euro – A disorganized, directionless side. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard don’t have the ability to push teams forward anymore, and certainly not be anchormen who hold down a defensive front. Lampard never was in any case.
The rest? A confused defense, not helped by the lack of order in the middle of the park, and having the X-factor Oxlade-Chamberlain doing nothing productive, and nothing that had anything to do with the rest of his teammates. A player that usually brings on a lot of positive thing with him when he comes off the bench added nothing as a starter except for turnovers and a lack of discipline in his play.
And after the wasteful start came the fantastic Konoplyanka goal. England pressed, but without any kind of ability to create orderly and planned attacks, there wasn’t that much danger to the visitors lead, Welbeck forced the penalty that Frank Lampard scored, his third goal of the campgain.
Hodgson? Everything was pretty good in his eyes: I am not prepared to accept this wasn’t a great performance… you cannot allow the result to cloud your judgement of a good performance… If we’d lost it would be harsh justice…
It’s hard making an orderly unit from a national team, but it feels like something’s always missing in England’s game; something that’s there, but no one seems to find and implement. Playing the duo of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard isn’t the answer. Maybe against sides like Moldova, but that combo won’t work against actual quality.