England 1 Ukraine 1: Lessons as Lampard rescues the Three Lions
England 1 Ukraine 1: What did we learn as Frank Lampard's late penalty rescued a point for Roy Hodgson's men against Ukraine?
Time for Hodgson to drop Milner
Roy Hodgson continues to persevere with Manchester City’s James Milner on the right side of England’s midfield. The 26-year-old’s desire and effort are undoubted in a Three Lions shirt, but his inability to outwit opposition defenders nullifies England’s impact from wide positions. Furthermore, Milner by default drifts into his preferred central position which inevitably congests the middle of the park. Why Milner? Hodgson’s thinking behind the selection is to provide security for Glen Johnson, who relishes the chance to maraud from his right-back position. Frustratingly, Hodgson does have quality right-wing options to choose from. Adam Johnson missed out on a place in England’s 23-man squad for Euro 2012 in the summer. Presumably, he was hampered by a lack of first-team football at City as the winger was the victim of the Eastland outfit’s extravagant spending. However, a move to Sunderland could give Johnson’s international career a vital lifeline – he is just 25 after all. And, on his day, the Middlesbrough youth product can bewitch opposition full-backs with his pace, trickery and shooting ability. Injury-plagued Aaron Lennon is another option Hodgson should utilise as the Tottenham winger embarks on his Spurs comeback following a frustrating 2011-12 campaign. The former Leeds United midfielder has never enjoyed a sustained run in the Three Lions side despite an eye-catching cameo at the 2010 World Cup.
Cleverley brought back down to earth
Tom Cleverley deservedly earned the plaudits after a mature performance alongside Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in England’s midfield for the 5-0 victory over Moldova. The Manchester United youngster is assured and economical with possession, boasting an eye for a pass that can dissect opposition defences, while he is able to engage in short, intricate exchanges with team-mates. And while senior members of the squad such as Gerrard and Lampard have backed their newest international colleague to become a key player for both club and country, Cleverley endured a frustrating night in front of goal. The 23-year-old’s first opportunity came in the 33rd minute. Gerrard’s wonderful cross was directed into Cleverley’s path by Jermain Defoe, but the United star had his tame effort saved by the feet of Ukraine’s goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov. Perhaps affected by his earlier miss, on the stroke of half-time, another chance arose, but Cleverley could only skew his shot harmlessly wide. Hodgson finally ended a frustrating evening for the Red Devils playmaker when he was replaced by club-mate Danny Welbeck midway through the second half. This week has been a promising start to life in the senior side for Cleverley, but goal scoring is facet he will need to add to his game if he wants to occupy the No10 role on a more permanent basis.
Tymoschuk shows Gerrard and Lampard how it’s done
Gerrard and Lampard were lauded after a dominant performance against Group H minnows Moldova on Friday, but before England supporters were able to get too carried away by the prospect of the duo finally striking up a fruitful partnership in central midfield, a subdued display against Ukraine has left Hodgson with plenty to contemplate. The pair have been asked to fulfil a deeper, holding role for their respective clubs, but neither have mastered the new position – and it showed against Ukraine. England looked to have a vulnerable underbelly as the visitors relentlessly looked to penetrate the home side’s rearguard by cutting in from the wing. It proved a fruitful tactic when a retreating Three Lions were caught out. The England skipper Gerrard thought danger had been averted when he directed Yevhen Konoplyanka into the centre of the pitch. But the winger unleashed a sublime long-range shot which beat Joe Hart to give the visitors the lead. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk also deserved credit for Ukraine’s opening strike after the Bayern Munich dynamo intercepted Joelon Lescott’s wayward pass and teed up Konoplyanka. The 33-year-old, a veteran defensive midfielder, excelled in the position as he broke up England’s attacks and released his team-mates to attack a defence with fragile confidence. In terms of overall contribution, Gerrard, who was sent off for a second bookable offence in the dying moments of the game, was productive in his passing, and Lampard’s penalty rescued a point for Hodgson’s side – but it remains to be seen whether they can thrive in deeper midfield position against savvier opposition than Moldova.