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Ryan Ross On June - 20 - 2012

Euro 2012 Match Report: England 1-0 Ukraine

A victory over the co-hosts Ukraine on Tuesday left England sitting top of Group D, having knocked France off their perch. Old rivals Italy await them in the next round, due to be played on Sunday. Roy Hodgson will be relieved to have avoided the prospect of playing reigning Champions Spain and England can look forward to the next tie in a confident mood.

England will now believe they have a firm chance of reaching the semi-final stage, where a mouth-watering tie against tournament favourites Germany, could await. Their opening draw with France, combined with back-to-back wins over Sweden and Ukraine has given the side a new found confidence. It is a sense of belief which few could have predicted when Hodgson was appointed as manager last month. Many believed England would struggle to qualify from the group, let alone win it.

Success over Ukraine came courtesy of a Wayne Rooney goal. His first at an international tournament since scoring against Switzerland at Euro 2004. His goal put a shade of gloss over an ultimately underwhelming performance from England’s ‘star’ man. Rooney’s first touch looked off and there was little correlation with his strike partner Welbeck.

But unlike Rooney, Captain Steven Gerrard turned in yet another performance of the highest class. He led his team by example, constantly pressing the opposition and providing the dynamism England required to overcome a determined Ukrainian side. England’s defence also contributed, with Joleon Lescott ever reliable, countering the unnerving presence of John Terry alongside him. They also had their share of luck in this game.

Their first incident involved Ukraine’s Pyatov fumbling at a cross, deflecting the ball into the path of Rooney, allowing England to score. But the victory became tainted when Marko Devic’s shit crossed the line, before being cleared by Terry. But the extra official inexcusably disallowed the goal and Ukraine were left to rue such a costly mistake. England had made a great escape. Conceding the goal would have led to extended pressure from Ukraine, searching for the winning goal they needed to stay in the tournament. The decision makes a mockery of UEFA’s President Michel Platini, who has long been opposed to goal-line technology. Perhaps now, after the co-hosts suffered from poor officiating Platini may change his mind.

It was expected that the Donbass Arena would be transformed into a cauldron, with a fervent home support ready to drag Ukraine into the quarter-finals. England’s own support numbered as few as 4000, an indication of the problems facing travelling fans. But the ever reliable ‘England Band’ was present, lifting the noise level.

Ukraine pressurised England during the first half, gaining joy in the wide areas. Hodgson had instructed his side to remain narrow, but this only left room for Gusev and Yarmolenko to attack Ashley Cole. But despite their efforts, Ukraine could not break England down.

Wayne Rooney highlighted the nerves which some feared may affect England. His ball control was poor and he could not link with Welbeck to unlock the defence. In the 28th minute, Ashley Young found Rooney with a cross only for the striker to head wide. He should have scored and it was reminiscent of what has been a below par year for Rooney.

England’s goal came from Gerrard’s determination, after he skilfully beat the full-back and whipped a cross in, beating the entire defence. The Ukrainian goal-keeper Pyatov was unable to deal with the pace of the cross and fumbled the ball through his arms. The goal marked yet another chance created by Gerrard, who is developing a trademark in setting up goals from such quality passes. Rooney was able to drift in at the far post unmarked and headed the ball in. England had breached Ukraine’s defence and looked likely victors.

Ukraine were forced to attack constantly in search of an equaliser. This left gaps in the defence which England were able to exploit. Several rapid counter-attacks sought to find Rooney in space. His best chance came after he latched onto a Gerrard pass, running half the pitch, only to fail to pass to Welbeck and waste the chance.

The introduction of Andriy Shevchenko seemed to lift Ukraine and Milevskiy nearly scored with a long range effort which left Joe Hart scrambling to save it. England were glad luck was on their side and on learning Sweden were 2-0 up against France, they knew their job was done.

Ryan Ross

I became enthralled with Calcio back in the 90’s, when James Richardson presented Football Italia. My early mornings were spent following the trials and tribulations of Internazionale, during a period where they always flattered to deceive. It took a Frenchman to get me hooked though; Youri Djorkaeff, my favourite player of all time. This guy was key to Inter’s midfield, never mind his role in France’s World Cup win in 1998! I have a keen interest in Calcio’s rich history.

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