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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
England 2-1 Ukraine

Crouch, 29 Shevchenko, 74
Terry, 85

It was his strongest display of emotion so far. As the final whistle blew, Fabio Capello marched out of his technical area, raised his clenched fists to the sky and roared triumphantly. This was a far more impressive scoreline than it was a performance, but thankfully that kind of thing never shows up on the group tables. It's five from five for England now and they just need to do the simple things well to secure their passage to South Africa. Wins in their next two games, away to Kazakhstan and at home to Andorra, should do the trick.

John Terry and Frank Lampard paid tribute afterwards to England's fighting spirit, as well they might. In previous years, this would certainly have been a missed opportunity, two points lost to a sucker punch. England had been unable to build on Peter Crouch's opening goal, partly because of the Ukraine's ability to absorb their attacking moves so comfortably, but also because they didn't actually seem to want to score a second. Capello has transformed England's traditionally aggressive and reckless style into something far more composed and Italian. With a one goal lead, the ball was retained for huge swathes of the game at a time, passed about calmly through the ranks as if England were daring their opponents to come at them. It wasn't very interesting to watch, but as an indicator of progress it was compelling. It was like watching Serie A.

It should have been a far simpler affair. Though they defended well, swarming over Steven Gerrard and squeezing the game out of Aaron Lennon, the Ukraine offered very little up front. Andriy Voronin, so potent a force for Hertha Berlin this season, decided instead to showcase his Liverpool form and thus he struggled to make an impression on the game. An awkward snapshot from Anatoliy Tymoschuk represented the best of their efforts until Andrei Shevchenko punished the hosts by smashing home an equaliser from close range.

For 11 long minutes, Capello had to ponder the pounding that the UK press would undoubtably have given him for sitting back on his advantage. But his players weren't ready to lie down and accept the draw. No heads dropped and no shoulders sagged. While the attacking outlets that worked so well on Saturday were restricted here, there were other options. David Beckham replaced the hapless Lennon and his set-pieces began to prise open the Ukrainian defence. John Terry, eager to make up for the mistake that set up the equaliser, led the charge from the front and just kept himself onside to seal the three points.

Wayne Rooney gave another tigerish display, but he was rather fortunate to stay on the pitch after a violent lunge at Oleksandr Aliev. More understandable than throwing the ball at a referee at least, it was still rash and pointless. Capello, a man who likes his team to tick over like a vintage engine, will not have appreciated Rooney's unnecessary over-revving.

Perhaps though, this is the way that England are destined to develop under their Italian leadership. Capello demands cold composure and the English are preset for blood and thunder. This mixed performance and enthusiastic comeback hints then at a happy hybrid and perhaps that's no bad thing. England will need a little of both ideologies if they're to finally fulfill their potential on the world stage. With another win secured, the opportunity to do so draws ever closer.

SLIP-UP - Ashley Cole didn't do himself any favours in front of a Wembley crowd who already despise him. Messing about with the ball under pressure cost him dearly against Kazakhstan, so why did he do it here? A better team than the Ukraine might have really punished him and he can count himself very lucky indeed.

ELECTRIC - It didn't pay immediate dividends, but the fast-developing partnership between Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard on the left showed flashes of genius in the first half. Ukranian defenders bustled around the Liverpool captain, restricting his space, but he still scared them on more than a few occasions.

BRAINS OF THE OPERATION - The Ukrainian captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk is some player. A key factor in the rise of Zenit St Petersburg, the blonde midfielder has got a little bit of everything. No wonder Bayern Munich have ignored his age and splashed out heavily on his services.

PUNTER'S RANT - Why didn't I put money on Andrei Shevchenko scoring? It was obvious from the way that the UK press were belittling his ability, as if his subdued performances in the EPL invalidated his talent anywhere else. You can't tempt fate like that and not have it slam an equaliser past you from a poorly defended set-piece. Gargh! I could be on a beach by now.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Let's ignore that dangerous lunge and concentrate on the good stuff. The exquisite close control, the swirling 40 yard cross field balls that landed on the preferred foot of his team-mates. The surging runs, the incisive movement, the sheer get-up-and-go of the man. Oooh, it gives me hope.


Crowd - 87,548
Yellow Cards - Barry, Johnson, Beckham (England), Mykhalyk (Ukraine)
Red Cards - None
England -
David James 6, Glen Johnson 6, Ashley Cole 6, John Terry 7, Rio Ferdinand 7 (Phil Jagielka 6, 88th), Gareth Barry 7, Frank Lampard 7, Steven Gerrard 7, Aaron Lennon 6 (David Beckham 7, 57th), Wayne Rooney 8, Peter Crouch 7 (Shaun Wright-Phillips 6, 79th)
Ukraine -
Andrei Pyatov 6, Yvacheslav Shevchuk 7, Grygory Yarmash 6, Dymtryo Chigrinsky 7, Taras Mykhalyk 7, Serhiy Valiyaev 6 (Serhiy Nazarenko 6, 61st), Anatoliy Tymoschuk 7, Oleksandr Aliev 7, Valentyn Slysur 7 (Maxim Kalinichenko 6, 88th), Andriy Voronin 5 (Andrei Shevchenko 7, 55th), Artem Milevskiy 6