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England get reality check from impressive Ukraine

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Sept. 12, 2012, 8:35 a.m. | Sports — by Reuters

Ukraine's Levgenii Konoplianka, left, celebrates his goal against England with teammates during their group H 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Wembley Stadium, London, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.
© AP

LONDON - England were handed a reality check after their thumping 5-0 win over Moldova when they snatched a 1-1 draw with Ukraine through a late Frank Lampard penalty against a vibrant and technically gifted side in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

England, who had skipper Steven Gerrard sent off in the 88th minute for a second yellow card, looked to be heading to a first defeat under coach Roy Hodgson until Lampard's 87th-minute penalty rescued a Group H point.

Lampard, who scored twice against Moldova, took his England tally to 26 when he slammed his spot-kick home after Evhen Khacheridi was adjudged to have handled substitute Danny Welbeck's shot.

Ukraine had taken the lead with a brilliantly executed goal by Evhen Konoplianka after 39 minutes, curling home a stunning right-foot shot that gave goalkeeper Joe Hart no chance of saving.

It looked like that was going to exact Ukraine's revenge for their 1-0 defeat by England at Euro 2012 but the hosts' late spell of pressure finally paid off.

England manager Roy Hodgson dismissed suggestions that his side were largely second best but the visitors pressed England back for long periods and were certainly the better team for the first hour of the game.

"We started poorly in the first 10 minutes but once we got into our stride I thought we had quite good control over the game," Hodgson told reporters.

"We went 1-0 down to a wonder-strike but against a good Ukraine team, I was very pleased with the way we kept probing and playing our football and kept taking the game to them and kept creating chances.

"So in the end we fully deserved our equaliser and I am pleased with the way the players went about their task."

Ukraine manager Oleg Blokhin said he was disappointed not to win.

"We made a great start and deserved to be leading at halftime because we caused them problems they could not solve," he said.

"I think some of the young players were a bit intimidated by playing England at Wembley, but they did very well. England did play better in the second half and we got tired, but this is still a very good point for us.

"Of course if we don't get points against Poland and Montenegro and San Marino it will all be in vain but a draw was good in the end."

Ukraine, playing their first competitive match since the retirement of their greatest player Andriy Shevchenko, showed they do not need to rely on past heroes with the likes of Roman Zozulia, Ruslan Rotan, Andriy Yarmolenko and the outstanding Konoplianka producing inspired touches.

On this form, they are likely to push England all the way in the race for top spot in the group in the hunt for a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

UNLUCKY DEFOE

England, ravaged by illness and injuries, were unlucky not to score in the 11th minute when Jermain Defoe found the net with a fierce 20-metre shot, only for Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir to disallow the effort after ruling the striker illegally challenged Andriy Yarmolenko in the build-up.

Ukraine, though, kept England on the back foot though Defoe set up Tom Cleverley with a golden opportunity after 34 minutes but the midfielder shot straight at keeper Andriy Pyatov's feet.

Cleverley missed two other scoring chances, scuffing one and hitting the outside of the post with the other.

Ukraine's goal was not a total shock for the home fans because the visitors looked dangerous in attack from the start.

Oleh Gusyev hit the post with a deflection off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after four minutes and Rotan's effort was cleared by Gerrard after it beat goalkeeper Joe Hart 10 minutes later before Denys Garmash put a difficult chance over the bar.

The result left England on four points along with Montenegro and Poland who beat San Marino and Moldova respectively on Tuesday. Ukraine have one point but have only played one match.

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