Jermain Defoe’s brace saves England’s blushes
Jermaine Defoe etched his name into Fabio Capello’s starting eleven for next summer’s World Cup as he rescued the pride of the three lions scoring twice to lead his country to a revival as they fought back from 2-0 down to seal a 2-2 draw.
For England it was very much a tale of two halves, with fringe players like Jermain Defoe and Carlton Cole outshining many of Capello’s first choice players. Indeed England looked sloppy in the first half and Holland duly capitalised on England’s errors.
A careless pass from Rio Ferdinand went straight to an alert Dirk Kuyt, who pounced on the loose ball, and out-footed the onrushing Robert Green, slotting the ball into the left hand corner despite the best efforts of England captain John Terry.
Rio Ferdinand has been a rock at the centre of Manchester United’s defence in recent years but his concentration lapses do present opposition with chances to punish United and England from time to time. Tonight could prove a wake-up call as the new season approaches.
Ferdinand was at fault for the first but he could do nothing to prevent the second. This time the culprit was Manchester City’s versatile midfielder Gareth Barry, who underhit a pass to John Terry, allowing the electric Arjen Robben to burst through the England defence and fire a shot at Green. It was saved but the West Ham keeper couldn’t prevent Rafael Van Der Vaart scoring from the rebound.
England enjoyed a healthy amount of possession in the first half but there was no bite to their attacks with the Dutch defence allowed to clear their lines with ease. Indeed an agitated Stuart Pearce roared at England’s front men Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey to press the Holland defenders higher up the pitch.
Frank Lampard looked sharp in attack and enjoyed a licence to press forward with the security of Barry behind, and he had his country’s best chance in the first half as he hooked in a shot from the right-hand side which was blocked by Holland’s keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
Fabio Capello had no qualms in shaking up his England side at half time with Jermain Defoe, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Michael Carrick introduced as the Italian sought to avoid a third loss of his reign as England manager.
Defoe made an instant impact racing onto a lobbed pass by Lampard with a divine first touch which allowed him to race away from the chasing defender and fire a firm drive which deflected in off the inside of the post.
The Tottenham striker added that extra spark to an English side which had lacked raw pace up front and showed the clinical touch which many pundits have lamented as a quality lacking in this England side without Michael Owen.
A rejuvenated England then started to claw their way back into the match as they started to bully the Dutch midfield and defence. Carlton Cole entered the fray and soon bossed Ooijer and Mathijsen, showing exquisite control of the ball and looked a real threat up-front.
James Milner secured a first cap, finally being allowed to make the step up from the under 21 squad and whipped in a cross which Defoe steered home on 67 minutes to pull England level on the night.
It capped an impressive performance by Defoe who will look to consolidate his place in the Capello’s squad and force his way into the starting line up. Whether he can build an effective partnership with Rooney remains to be seen.
England heaped the pressure on Holland in the final stages of the game with Ryan Babel the sole outlet for the tiring home side. Indeed he gave the man donned England’s ‘first choice right back’, Glen Johnson something to consider as he streaked past his Liverpool team-mate on several occasions, darting left and right and forcing Johnson into conceding fouls on several occasions.
Overall Fabio Capello can take heart from the impact of Defoe, Cole and Milner as he looks to thoroughly explore all his options before deciding upon a squad adequate enough to launch a successful campaign in South Africa next summer.