By Harrison Page
Euro 2012 Qualifiers
England 2 Lampard 37, Young 51
Switzerland 2 Barnetta 32, 35
Second half substitute Ashley Young made all the difference for England.
England missed the chance to go three points clear at the top of Group G in the Euro 2012 Qualifiers after coming from behind to earn only a draw with Switzerland at Wembley.
In front of a sell-out crowd in North London, Fabio Capello’s side looked lacklustre in attack without the suspended Wayne Rooney and failed to ever get going against a Swiss team who have so far only beaten Wales in the European Championship Qualifiers.
In what was the final competitive match of the season, the England players seemed to have their minds firmly set on their summer holidays rather than the game in hand. The first half an hour was dominated by the Swiss, who despite failing to really threaten Joe Hart’s goal, were nullifying England’s intentions to press into the Switzerland half.
Tranquillo Barnetta scored a brace
On 32 minutes, the realisation that this was in fact a competitive international and not the end of season runabout it was being treated as by many a England player, was underlined by Tranquillo Barnetta. His sumptuously curled delivery from a free-kick outside the area bypassed everyone including England ‘keeper Joe Hart to see the Swiss move into a deserved 1-0 lead. Rio Ferdinand, presumably still lightheaded after his club side's footballing lesson from Barcelona on the very same Wembley pitch a week ago, mistimed his jump in an attempt to head the set-piece away leaving Hart helpless to react and England a goal behind.
Three minutes later, Switzerland were 2-0 up. It was double trouble from Barnetta as once again the winger scored from a set-piece, leaving Joe Hart with the job of simply picking the ball out from the back of the England net. With everyone except Barnetta seemingly expecting another cross into the box, the Swiss international fired a shot through a conveniently created hole in the wall, courtesy of the side-stepping James Milner, to double his side’s lead at the near post. It was another mistake from a dead-ball situation and the Three Lions looked to be losing their grip on the top spot in Group G.
Two minutes later however, England were offered a reprieve after Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was brought down in the box after the first real piece of attacking intent from Fabio Capello’s men. Frank Lampard stepped up and scored the resulting penalty, albeit fortuitously under the body of Swiss ‘keeper Diego Benaglio.
Frank Lampard scores a penalty to give England
a lifeline at the break.
England went in at half-time to a resounding rendition of jeers from the Wembley crowd. The formation was clearly not working with James Milner and Theo Walcott failing to create a single clear opportunity for Darren Bent. The start of the second half saw Lampard replaced by Ashley Young and England immediately looked a completely different outfit thanks to the instinctive attacking nature of Aston Villa pair Bent and Young.
Just six minutes after the break, England were level thanks to their half-time substitute. A clipped ball in from Milner on the left was chested down by Leighton Baines into the path of Ashley Young who curled the ball beyond the Swiss ‘keeper and into the far corner of the net. Minutes later Bent’s primary asset was finally utilised by the Three Lions’ midfield, as Jack Wilshere played a lovely ball behind the Swiss back four, but Benaglio was quick off his line to deny the onrushing England striker.
Darren Bent almost sealed what would have been an extraordinary comeback with 20 minutes to go, but uncharacteristically side-footed his finish over the bar after the impressive Ashley Young had his shot saved by Benaglio.
All in all, it was a disappointing result for Fabio Capello’s team, albeit for their two-goal comeback and missing regulars Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard through suspension and injury respectively. Undoubtedly calls for a winter break will come back into question as John Terry complained of England being tired in their last match of the season, but the fact of the matter is the Three Lions will have to perform to a much higher standard if they wish to qualify for next year’s European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.