England created few chances against Ukraine in their World Cup Qualifier on Tuesday evening but did enough to earn a deserved point from the game.
It means England go into their final two qualifiers on top of their group. While England may have beaten Moldova with ease last week, Ukraine represented a far sterner test to Roy Hodgson’s men.
The task was made harder with the absence of the suspended Danny Welbeck. Rickie Lambert held the line in a remote, lone furrow for England and the lack of support from those around him hampered England’s creativity.
Yet, England’s defence was excellent. The respective Chelsea and Everton combination of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka was strong and stifled the Ukrainian attack.
The match represented Roy Hodgson’s 20th as England manager. With a win ratio of 57% prior to it, the omens looked good for the nation. Nevertheless, England weathered a brutal Ukrainian storm in the opening few minutes and were fortunate not to concede a penalty after Joe Hart seemed to clatter a striker.
Theo Walcott tried to assert England’s authority up the other end with a dazzling run but his deflected shot went wide.
Ultimately, this was as close as England came all match really. Ukraine showed more zip than their counterparts but failed to stretch Joe Hart. Artem Fedetskiy should have won it for the hosts but he headed straight at Hart from a Ukraine corner late on.
The point signifies success for England. It means the chance to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil remains in their hands. It may have not been the prettiest or most entertaining football spectacles in Kiev but England got the job done.
A win would have been brilliant for England, granted, but a defeat would have left them in a rather uncompromising, grim position. So, in some respects, Hodgson continues to please England fans. They have to take the good with the bad. While movement and flair may have been lacking in the final third, England’s defending was good. It helped them to their second clean sheet in as many games.
With this promising result, it looks as though England are heading for Brazil but we mustn’t jump to any foregone conclusions. They still must put in good performances in their remaining matches and not underestimate Montenegro or Poland either.
However, Hodgson’s management should also be applauded. He has guided England into this hopeful position despite a long injury list that has sidelined the likes of Wayne Rooney, Glen Johnson and Andy Carroll. Welbeck’s ban also hindered Hodgson’s hopes.
England sit top of the tree, a point above Ukraine as they head into two more, massive matches on their road to Rio.