After the easy win last week, this game was always going to prove a little more tricky for Roy’s boys. The close 1 nil win against the hosts of the Euros showed that the Ukraines were no push over and England would need to be on their best.
Without their Talisman, Mr Shevchenko, Ukraine started a little cagey. With our untried midfield (Gerrard and Lampard, lol) we did too. Seriously, these guys have had nearly 10 years to get it right, and just fail every time. It has to be egos, but that has no place at this level, either they were both too far forward or too far back, normally back. How we think we can punish teams at home when both our central midfielders are in our half, i really dont know.
One other surprise was Mr Cleverly at no 10. Number 10 says to me, Maradona and Cryuff (Rooney ?), not someone who hasn’t yet scored for his club. This is not his fault, but when Sturridge was on the bench does suggest some odd thinking from the manager.
Defoe had a stunner disallowed after an alleged misdemeanor, and that was about it for England’s first half, outside of Cleverly missing two sitters. The Ukrainians, although equally as drab scored a sreamer just before half time to go in 1 up, thanks to Konoplyanka.
For the second half no subs were made and England carried on as usual with no one utilising Defoe and trying to play around the back. The Ukrainians just held up and moved it on (albeit to nothing). Cleverly was finally put out of his misery on the hour mark, and some small gains were made as Wellback started to run about a bit and cause trouble. Then Sturridge replaced the Ox (who was very inefficient) , and once again England stepped up. Wellbeck had already tried to claim one penalty when he got the second, and Lamps put away his 27th goal in 93 appearances for the national side.
Then with hardly any time left England press on for victory, until Mr Gerrard capped off a poor performance with a very mistimed tackle in no mans land to get a red and seal the game at 1-1.
So the honeymoon is over for Hodgson and the real work starts. He has had a favour with Gerrard being out for at least one game as he can make a new captain, and feel easier about dropping Gerrard if he feels the need. Who’s it to be?, probably Lampard, as the best of a bad bunch. Hart seems obvious but i’m never too sure about keepers being captains, but he has done it before at U-21 level.
Rooney is needed, if fit, and Wellbeck should step up as a starter. There is still a place for Defoe, but only as part of a two up top. This leaves Tom Cleverly. Just too old for the U-21, but definitely out of his depth in this company and especially near the front of the team. Also the Ox needs to to improve after blasting onto the scene.
In short Roy needs to hand out some hairdryers and get the team focused again. I feel he has spent the summer blowing smoke up them, to encourage a team rather than building one. Thats OK for one tournament, but we now have a campaign to manage.
San Marino next. No surely not. Stranger things have happened………………………………….