Defoe double gives England draw with the Netherlands
Netherlands 2 England 2
Wednesday 12 August 2009
Jermain Defoe's second-half double allowed England to come from two goals down at the break to snatch a draw in their friendly against Holland.
England seemed certain to start the World Cup season with a morale-sapping defeat as basic blunders from Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry gifted the already-qualified Dutch their interval advantage.
Instead, Fabio Capello managed to inject some life into his troops, with Defoe supplying the killer finish to passes from the excellent Frank Lampard and eye-catching youngster James Milner, to take his personal tally to four England goals in two games.
Capello is far too experienced to be won over by the result, which is pretty creditable in itself given the hosts are ranked number three in the world.
However, while defensive deficiencies were obvious, England's refusal to accept defeat from the most unpromising of situations bodes very well for the trials expected to lie in front of them in South Africa next year.
Capello did not quite say the result was unimportant yesterday but he did give the impression he was more interested in the performance, to find out whether his side had retained the lessons absorbed so well last season.
However it was a shambolic opening period.
Ferdinand is among one of the best defenders in Europe. So his decision to turn a pass towards Robert Green without so much as a lift of the head in his goalkeeper's direction can only be put down to a mental aberration.
The result was an opportunity for Kuyt to nip in and slip the ball past Green, then beat the West Ham keeper again on the way back as he opened up an angle.
If Kuyt had not scored, he would have received a volley of abuse from Robin van Persie who stood on his own in the six-yard box screaming for a pass.
Fortunately for the Liverpool man, his shot bounced in off John Terry, who tried in vain to scramble it off the line.
To prove Ferdinand was not the only one capable of such elementary errors, Frank Lampard did a very similar thing on the half hour, which would have resulted in England falling two behind if Green had not produced a fine save to deny Arjen Robben.
You would think that would be the end of England's enforced errors.
Unfortunately, there was time for one more before half-time as Barry sent Robben through.
The former Chelsea star probably could not believe his good fortune. Yet again though Green repelled him, only for Rafael van der Vaart to drive the rebound into an empty net.
It ended a thoroughly miserable opening first-half for the visitors, who had played well in patches but were too often pulled apart by the fluidity of Holland's movement in attack.
On the occasions England did get a sight of goal, they were either just off target, or Marten Stekelenburg was in the way.
Lampard came closest for England with a near post effort. But Holland could easily argue Robben, Van Persie, Kuyt and Van der Vaart were just as deserving of another for the Dutch.
As Capello had pledged to make use of all six potential substitutes to appease worried managers ahead of this weekend's Premier League opening, his three immediate changes could not be put down to a fit of pique.
Nevertheless, Capello's hairdryer might have been out given the inept nature of his team's display and the effect created by his changes was staggering as Lampard chipped a pass through to Defoe, who bore down on the Dutch goal and finished in fine style just five minutes after the re-start.
The whole mood of the contest changed. The visitors' confidence returned with Defoe providing the spark and England's defenders cutting out the elementary mistakes, even if Holland still looked capable of adding to their tally.
A beautiful piece of skill from Rooney's replacement Carlton Cole almost allowed England to draw level as Lampard exerted a greater influence on proceedings.
And, 13 minutes from time, parity was restored as Milner - yet another impressive substitute - bravely got his head to the ball and nodded past John Heitinga before charging to the by-line and delivering a low cross that Defoe gleefully tapped home.
A late flurry at both ends might have brought a winner but considering the circumstances, England were probably quite happy with a share of the spoils.
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