Steven Gerrard admitted last night that England “had stopped playing” in the second half against Montenegro last night, allowing their opponents back into the game for an equaliser which, the national team captain said, means that England must win all their four remaining qualifiers.
Leading through Wayne Rooney’s goal after six minutes, England controlled much of the first half and should have gone in at half-time more than one goal up. The second half was dramatically different with Montenegro piling on the pressure and eventually equalising through substitute Dejan Damjanovic.
The draw, England’s third in Group H, means that they stay in second place behind Montenegro who lead the group by two points. England have four remaining qualifiers in the autumn, only one of which is away, against Ukraine. The Ukrainians are behind England and, like Poland, on eight points both having played one game fewer than England’s six.
Gerrard said: “We stopped playing after the break for 20 or 30 minutes and away from home you can’t afford to do that. We stopped passing and they got a deserved equaliser. I think there was lot of experience out there, and we showed that in first half but the problem is when you are only 1-0 up you are always vulnerable. They took control in the second half apart from the last 10 minutes but we are still confident we can finish top of the group.”
He added: “We’re still confident we can finish top of the group. We need to win all our games, we certainly need to improve on that second half performance and play like we did [in the] first half. We need to put that [drawing with Montenegro, Ukraine and Poland] right. We certainly need to get three points when go to Ukraine and we need perfect results at home.”
The ITV Sport pundit Roy Keane said that the result was “a reality check” for England and they had “no chance” of doing well in Brazil. “That is where England let you down, you don’t get a complete performance and they don’t have that killer instinct. We saw that in the game. I’d love to know what happened at half-time as they were shocking in terms of concentration... I can’t believe how bad England were in the second half.”
Roy Hodgson, the England manager said that he did not believe a draw was a “particularly bad result”. He said: “It’s in our hands because we play Montenegro and Poland at home. We have to go to Ukraine, sure, but it goes back to the Ukraine result at home, where we drew when we’d like to have won. Maybe the Ukraine away could be crucial for us, but with three out of the last four at home it’s still in our hands. We hope to make sure it remains in our hands by winning those matches.”
England could be five points behind Montenegro who play Ukraine next at home in June. England’s next World Cup qualifier is against Moldova at Wembley Stadium on 6 September.
The Montenegro coach, Branko Brnovic, said that his side would be virtually guaranteed of second place if they win their next game. “If we had been complete in our line-up [Brnovic was missing four players through suspension and injury last night], we would have been more successful than this,” he said.
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