Lampard penalty spares England's embarrassment

 

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The Independent Online

Not that anyone would have wanted to remind Roy Hodgson as England chased an equaliser last night, but the last time the national team lost a qualifying game for a major tournament at Wembley it was the dark days of the end of Steve McClaren's regime. And we all remember how that one ended.

Frank Lampard came to the rescue with four minutes left with a goal from the penalty spot but by the end of the match, with Steven Gerrard dismissed and England unsure whether to go for the win or protect the point, they had there was an unsettling sense of chaos about the performance. Under Fabio Capello, tournament qualification was a breeze; under Hodgson it looks like the road to the 2012 World Cup could be a lot rockier.

England are fortunate that the game Gerrard will miss through suspension will be the qualifier against San Marino, about as close as it gets to a home banker. Nevertheless, the national team's benign-looking qualification Group H bared its teeth last night and were it not for the penalty that Danny Welbeck won, and Lampard's cold-as-ice finish, this would have been a dreadful night for Hodgson. Many of England's vulnerabilities were shown up last night by a Ukraine team that attacked on the break and very nearly held out for a famous victory. With 12 players missing from this squad, including Wayne Rooney, Hodgson had a worrying lack of options when he needed to turn the game around. It was a reminder that there is still so much work to do.

For Ukraine's goal, the ball was given away cheaply by Joleon Lescott to Yarmolenko, who was rolling around on the ground trying to win a foul when he realised the ball had been given back to him. Within three passes it was at the feet of Evgeni Konoplyanka who cut in from the left away from Gerrard and unleashed a fine shot beyond Joe Hart.

Of greatest concern for Hodgson was the lack of chances his team were creating. Glen Johnson cut in from the right and had a shot pushed around the post by Pyatov but, if anything, they troubled the Ukraine goal much less than they had in the first half. At the other end, Lescott's bad day continued with a foul on the lively Zozulia when he had lost the player.

Welbeck hit the post on 82 minutes and then drew a foul from Evgen Khacheridi to win the penalty that Lampard scored. Gerrard was sent off for his second yellow card, a lunge at Garmash. Hodgson's aspect at the final whistle was of a man who, in the circumstances, was happy with what he had got.

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