John Terry’s late winner ensured England took another significant step toward next year’s World Cup finals after a 2-1 win over Ukraine on Wednesday.
Terry’s 84th-minute goal ensured Fabio Capello’s squad reached the halfway stage in their campaign to reach South Africa with five wins out of five in Group Six, and maintained their five-point lead over Croatia, 2-0 winners over Andorra earlier in the day.
England just about deserved the three points but the outcome hung in the balance after Andriy Shevchenko came off the bench to cancel out Peter Crouch’s first-half strike with just over quarter of an hour left.
Capello admitted his side had been below par but said the win had been testimony to their character.
“It was not a rich game, a little bit poor,” the Italian said. “But the result is very important. When the referee blew the whistle I was very happy. We suffered a bit in the second half but we showed a lot of character and patience and I am very happy for John Terry. I think this is the reason he is the captain.”
Ukrainian coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko bemoaned the poor defending from his side that had enabled England to score both their goals from crosses.
“England did not exactly win the match, Ukraine helped them get the result,” the former Rangers midfielder said.
Shevchenko had initially had to settle for a substitutes role as Ukraine started with a forward pair of Artem Milevskyy and Andriy Voronin.
Capello’s only selection dilemma was resolved in Aaron Lennon’s favor, the Tottenham winger’s pace preferred to the superior crossing ability of David Beckham from the right.
Defending champions Italy were held to a 1-1 draw by the Republic of Ireland, while three-time winners Germany beat Wales 2-0 to also stay on course for next year’s South Africa showpiece. Poland were the night’s biggest winners, smashing San Marino 10-0 in Group Three with Ebi Smolarek grabbing four goals. But Northern Ireland are the unlikely leaders of that pool thanks to a 1-0 win over Slovenia.
Liverpool’s Albert Riera and Xabi Alonso scored as European champions Spain came from behind to beat Turkey 2-1 in Istanbul. Spain were hit in the 26th minute when Semih Senturk scored. Their equalizer came from Xabi Alonso from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute after Ibrahim Uzulmez had handled following a Fernando Torres header.
Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt scored twice as the Netherlands beat Macedonia 4-0 in Amsterdam to register their fifth win in five games. The win gave Bert van Marwijk’s team 15 points from five games in Group Nine, eight ahead of Scotland, who edged Iceland 2-1 with three games to play.
A second-half goal from Franck Ribery earned 1998 champions France a 1-0 victory over Lithuania for the second time in five days. The Bayern Munich winger scored from distance to sink the Baltic side in Kaunas on Saturday, and he proved the match-winner again in Paris.
Hungary and Denmark enjoyed 3-0 wins over Malta and Albania respectively to extend their lead at the top of Group One to seven points over misfiring Portugal, the 2006 semi-finalists.
Greece, the 2004 European champions, stay top of Group Two on goal difference from Switzerland after a 2-1 home win over Israel.
AFP, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
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