13th September, 2012
LONDON: England captain Steven Gerrard admitted to feeling hard done by after being sent off in his side’s lacklustre 1-1 draw against Ukraine, but insisted Roy Hodgson’s team were still on course to qualify for the World Cup.
Gerrard was shown two yellow cards by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir at Wembley on Tuesday, with the second coming in the closing moments, and the Liverpool midfielder will now miss England’s next qualifier against San Marino in October.
Beating minnows San Marino without Gerrard shouldn’t prove a major problem, but the early enthusiasm sparked by a 5-0 victory in Moldova in England’s first match on the road to Brazil has been dimmed by their laboured efforts against Ukraine.
England needed an 87th penalty from Frank Lampard to avoid a shock defeat following a spectacular first half strike from Yevhen Konoplyanka – and Gerrard’s dismissal, perhaps harsh given he appeared to win the ball, denied them an opportunity to push for a winner at the end.
“I don’t think there was a bad tackle in the game, was there? And I think the referee’s given seven yellow cards,” Gerrard said. “It’s disappointing for me because it’s a red card – my first one in 98 caps.
“But we play San Marino next. I’m sure the boys can do the job without me and then I’ll be available for Poland. I’m gutted over the red but happy with my performance.
“We wanted to win this game. We’re at home with our crowd behind us, so we’re disappointed not to get the three points.
“But having gone a goal down, I think we showed fantastic character and determination.
“We kept probing for the openings and, when the subs came on, I thought we created more chances. I thought we thoroughly deserved the point, if not a bit more on chances.”
Gerrard, however, was also impressed with the performance of Ukraine, a team that England only narrowly beat 1-0 during Euro 2012.
“I don’t think there’s much between these two teams,” he added. “You’ve got to give them credit. They’re a fantastic team and I think it’s going to be one of us who tops this group. That’s my prediction.
“I thought in general play, we controlled it. We looked the side who wanted to create all the openings and I think we’ll probably have a better chance of beating them away because they’ll have to come out and take more risks.
“But, credit to them, they’ve come to Wembley and they’ve got a draw.”
Gerrard’s red card was not the only controversial moment of the night.
England were also denied an opening goal when Jermain Defoe fired home in the first half but saw his effort harshly ruled out for a foul as he fended off his marker.
“I don’t think it would have been pulled back in any other league or any other game,” said England defender Phil Jagielka.
“That’s what we are getting used to now. If I’m Jermain and I’ve brushed someone away and then smacked one in the top corner I’d be absolutely devastated it’s been pulled back.
“They got a goal soon after which was a double whammy. But the boys showed great character to keep going.
“It was definitely one point gained in the end. It’s four points for us from the first two games – we would have loved six, especially after the last performance – but four points is fine.
“We look forward to the next game now and if we can win that then hopefully we can still finish top of the group.”
Hodgson insists England’s lacklustre 1-1 draw against Ukraine shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the promise of a brighter future as his young stars helped preserve their side’s unbeaten start.
England finally sparked into life after Hodgson threw on Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck and Chelsea duo Daniel Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand in the second half.
The youthful trio gave the hosts more pace and energy after a painfully low-tempo first hour and it was Welbeck who won the penalty that Frank Lampard converted five minutes from full-time to salvage a point.
But Hodgson is convinced the performances of his young substitutes show England, who were without the injured Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Ashley Cole against Ukraine, can cope in the absence of their top stars.
“I’m not sure I’m prepared to accept it was a bad performance, although I suppose people will always say that when we draw at home,” Hodgson said.
“We did miss a lot of players but the ones that came in, including the three youngsters who came on, acquitted themselves well.
“It shows we aren’t totally reliant on the old guard. Welbeck had a good impact and Bertrand was excellent as well.”
Hodgson was adamant England were worthy of at least a point, even though Ukraine often looked the more incisive outfit.
“I suppose you are relieved when you are losing 1-0 and get a late equaliser but I didn’t think we did that badly,” Hodgson said.
“We started very poorly in the first 10 minutes, but once we got into our stride we did well.
“We went 1-0 down to a wonder strike and of course against a good Ukraine side you are going to be up against.
“But I was pleased with the way we kept probing and with the way our players went about the task.”