World Cup Qualifiers: England beat Ukraine 2-1, stay on track
Fabio Capello has paid tribute to the resilience of his players after a nervy win over Ukraine that keeps his revitalised England squad firmly on track for next year's World Cup finals.sports Updated: Apr 02, 2009 09:03 IST
Fabio Capello has paid tribute to the resilience of his players after a nervy win over Ukraine that keeps his revitalised England squad firmly on track for next year's World Cup finals.
The Ukrainians came within five minutes of securing a Wembley draw that would have opened up the race for top spot in group six only to be left with nothing as John Terry's 84th-minute winner secured a 2-1 win for Capello's men.
Andriy Shevchenko's strike ten minutes later had seen the visitors cancel out Peter Crouch's first-half strike and Capello admitted he had been relieved to claim a victory that means England have reached the half-way stage in their campaign to reach South Africa with five wins out of five and a five-point lead over second-placed Croatia.
England made life hard for themselves by failing to capitalise on their first-half dominance and Capello admited the performance had been "a little bit poor."
He was quick to stress the importance of the result however.
"When the referee blew the whistle I was very happy," the Italian said. "We suffered a bit in the second half but we showed a lot of character and patience and I am very happy for John Terry. I think this is the reason he is the captain."
Ukrainian coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko bemoaned the poor defending from his side that had enabled England to score both their goals from dead ball deliveries from wide positions.
"England did not exactly win the match, Ukraine helped them get the result," he said. The former Rangers midfielder was not prepared however to accept that England are now virtually certain to take the automatic qualifying spot on offer to the group winners.
"England has a great chance to go through in first place but it is too early to say anything because only half the games have been played. Let's see what happens. They still have to come to Kiev and they did not create that great a threat against us here."
Despite his relief at the outcome, Capello was not prepared to accept that England had not deserved to win. "They had two chances and took one of them. We had many more chances and that is why we won in the end," he argued.
Having knocked four goals past Slovakia at the weekend, England started the match in confident mood and put together some slick approach work, mostly revolving around the lively Wayne Rooney, who appeared to be in the mood to celebrate his 50th international appearance.
But the opening goal, when it finally arrived in the 29th minute, was a more traditional English affair.
Rooney's goalward header secured a corner on the left. Frank Lampard's delivery was floated to the back post where Terry produced a knockdown for the unmarked Crouch, who hooked in a volley from three yards out.
Ukraine had offered little up to that stage to suggest they could find a way back into the match.
But the introduction of Shevchenko, just before the hour mark, was to provide them with a lifeline after England's defence made a mess of dealing with a free-kick whipped in from deep on the right.
The ball cannoned off Glen Johnson and Shevchenko reacted faster than anyone around him to fire past James from ten yards out.
England though were to have the last word and when Gerrard knocked down a Beckham free-kick, Terry was on hand to force the ball over the line.