England will go into their final group match at the European Under-21 Championship on Sunday in only third place and must beat the Czech Republic or suffer elimination. A small crowd in Herning saw them improve in the second half last night, but the draw has left them needing three points to reach the semi-finals for a third successive tournament.
Daniel Sturridge, playing wide on the right, carried by far their greatest threat, Frankie Fielding made three important saves and Manchester United's new acquisition Phil Jones did well again in defence in a physical game of four yellow cards to each team.
"We defended stoutly and were hoping to create one or two more clear-cut chances," was manager Stuart Pearce's verdict. The failure to do so, or score from even one of the 15 attempts on goal, could prove costly come the final reckoning at the weekend. Pearce had moved Sturridge out wide and brought in Jack Rodwell, while offering a reprieve to his captain Michael Mancienne, who like the team did better than against Spain last Sunday. Rodwell lasted only an hour and Jordan Henderson was more energetic than influential.
For most of the first half the pattern was similar to the Spain game, with England on the back foot, albeit seeing the ball a little more often. Sturridge nevertheless provided the highlight of the evening in the 32nd minute by taking down Mancienne's pass and volleying a ferocious drive against the crossbar. It was a rare moment of English enterprise and aggression at that point.
In the second half, the contest became far more open. Sturridge continued to look the likeliest lad, hitting a free-kick at the goalkeeper from fully 35 yards and then providing Danny Welbeck with a peach of a pass, which he wasted by shinning his shot wide under pressure. The introduction of Henri Lansbury and Scott Sinclair also had a positive effect, Lansbury, Sturridge and Welbeck all producing good efforts but unable to provide the vital breakthrough.
England (4-3-3): Fielding (Derby); Walker (Tottenham), Jones (Blackburn), Smalling (Manchester United), Bertrand (Chelsea); Henderson (Liverpool), Mancienne (Hamburg), Rodwell (Everton); Sturridge (Chelsea), Welbeck (Manchester United), Rose (Tottenham). Substitutes Lansbury (Arsenal) for Rodwell, 57; Sinclair (Swansea) for Rose, 57; Muamba (Bolton) for Mancienne, 88;
Ukraine (4-2-3-1): Kanibolotskiy; Butko, Kryvtsov, Rakitskiy, Selin; Chesnakov, Golodyuk; Biliy, Garmash, Konoplyanka (Yarmelenko, 64); Kravets (Zozulya, 70).
Referee A Stavrev (Macedonia).