England qualified for next summer’s EURO 2012 with a draw against Montenegro but didn’t get the job done quite as elegantly as they would have liked. After goals from Ashley Young and Darren Bent England looked set to cruise to victory but a poor second half performance which saw Wayne Rooney recklessly sent off left England only stumbling over the finished line with a 2-2 draw.
Going into the game the three lions needed just a point to ensure qualification and they looked to be well on course to achieving that as they started the game incredibly comfortably. The Montenegro players gave England far too much respect early on as they allowed England plenty of time on the ball to pick their passes. They were punished for this after ten minutes when Wayne Rooney found Theo Walcott on the right hand side whose pin perfect cross gave Ashley Young the simple task of nodding the ball in at the far post. There didn’t seem to be any sort of response from Montenegro whatsoever and twenty minutes later it was 2-0 after a sweeping passing move saw Rooney play in Ashley Young who squared to Bent for a tap in.
It had been a refreshing first half performance from England as they played with a real sense of calm and a fluidity that had been missing from their game in recent matches but it all changed for the worse right on the stroke of half time. A lapse in concentration in the England defence allowed Fatos Beciraj to pick out Elsad Zverotic who quickly chested and volleyed to see his shot deflect off Gary Cahill and past the helpless Joe Hart.
The goal got the home fans making noise again and a comeback started to look very much on the cards as Montenegro came out in the second half with real urgency. First, Joe Hart was called into action with a low shot from Beciraj and then a few minutes later Montenegro had a penalty claim turned down when Phil Jones appeared to take down Stevan Jovetic in the box.
The real turning point came on seventy three minutes when Rooney kicked out at Miodrag Dzudovic. The Montenegrin player blocked Rooney off to retain possession and Rooney retaliated by kicking him on the back of the legs to leave the referee with no choice but to send him off. It was an entirely unnecessary act by Rooney and again raises questions over his lack of discipline in moments of frustration.
For the remaining fifteen minutes Montenegro pressed England and their reward came in stoppage time when Stefan Savic’s cross from the right looped over Joe Hart before being headed in by substitute Andrija Delibasic. It was a vital goal for Montenegro as it gave them the point they needed to go through to the play off round.
England’s celebrations at the final whistle were rather muted as what looked to be a comfortable victory had turned into a frustrating draw and the red card for Wayne Rooney means he will miss at least the opening game of the EURO 2012 tournament next summer.