England scrape through
Rooney sees red as Three Lions book Euro 2012 berth
Last Updated: 09/10/11 6:10pm
England picked up the point they needed to secure qualification for Euro 2012 in a 2-2 draw with Montenegro, but posed plenty of questions.
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First-half goals from Ashley Young and Darren Bent had the Three Lions in cruise control, but they took their foot off the gas and were made to pay.
Elsad Zverotic handed the hosts a lifeline and they took full advantage of Wayne Rooney's moment of madness in the second half to snatch a late leveller through substitute Andrija Delibasic.
England have made a habit of starting brightly on their travels and they did so again as they broke the deadlock inside 11 minutes.
Theo Walcott was awarded time and space on the right wing and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Young to nod home at the back post.
The visitors doubled their advantage just after the half-hour mark, with Rooney sending Young into space and he unselfishly squared for Bent to bundle in a second.
The Three Lions were in complete control at that point, but lost their concentration in the dying seconds of the first half and were punished as Zverotic forced the ball past Joe Hart via the aid of a deflection.
A sloppy end to the first 45 minutes was an unfortunate sign of things to come for the visitors as they put in a ragged display after the interval.
Things went from bad to worse for Fabio Capello's men on 73 minutes as Rooney was shown a straight red card for a petulant kick out at Miodrag Dzudovic.
England were rocking at this point and it came as no surprise when Montenegro grabbed an equaliser in the dying seconds through Delibasic, which secured their place in the play-offs.
Even though they only required a point to book their ticket to next summer's finals in Poland and Ukraine, Capello insisted England would not adopt a cautious approach.
He was as good as his word too as wide men Walcott and Young exposed unexpected frailties in the Montenegrin defending from an early stage.
Rooney dropped deep, leaving Bent to dash into spaces in a manner the hosts found strangely difficult to deal with.
Debutant Phil Jones had already gone close with a wayward cross that almost dropped in when England carved their opponents open in textbook fashion.
Glorious movement off the ball led to Rooney releasing Walcott down the right.
The Arsenal man's delivery to the far post was perfect. In charged Young and in went the close-range header. Football at this level is rarely as easy as that.
It stunned the Montenegro supporters. Instead of the predicted sizzling atmosphere, they were drowned out by the jubilant visitors as they completed a set of first 15-minute goals in all their Group G away games.
And England did not stop there.
Rooney would have had a tap-in if Dzudovic had not cut out Bent's cross at full stretch.
Jones' powerful header from Walcott's corner was goal-bound until it struck Rooney on the back.
England were in cruise control and their lead was doubled by Bent 14 minutes before the break.
Once again, the move was launched by Rooney from a central position.
This time the incisive pass went to the left, where Young was on the chase. Bent could not fail to slot home his fourth goal in five internationals from close range.
Had England reached half-time, Capello's only complaint could have been about Walcott's failure to protect Jones, whose performance at right-back belied his 19 years.
As it turned out, he had good reason to gripe as his side lost concentration in stoppage time and Zverotic profited, his shot finding the bottom corner thanks to a significant deflection off Gary Cahill.
Quite apart from changing the nature of Capello's half-time prompting, it brought the hosts to life.
Hart denied Fatos Beciraj with a low save, then Stevan Jovetic had a penalty appeal turned down following a clumsy challenge from Jones.
After another effort that Beciraj screwed wide, Young went off holding his knee, although the more natural defensive capabilities of Stewart Downing were handy on a night that had turned into something of a trial.
There could hardly have been a greater contrast in the two halves though as Blackburn's Simon Vukcevic went for goal, triggering the introduction of Frank Lampard for Bent and a completely rejigged 4-5-1 formation.
Rooney was supposed to be at the apex. Then came the clash with Dzudovic, German referee Wolfgang Stark sending off Rooney for his kick out at his opponent.
Out came the red card, Rooney sent down the tunnel in disgrace.There was still time for Montenegro to deny England victory, but that is a side issue compared to the ridiculous act of a player who could now miss two-thirds of England's group phase next summer.
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European Championship Qualifying
Fri 7th Oct - Group B
Armenia4 - 1Macedonia
Slovakia0 - 1Russia
Andorra0 - 2Rep Ireland
Fri 7th Oct - Group A
Azerbaijan1 - 4Austria
Turkey1 - 3Germany
Belgium4 - 1Kazakhstan
Fri 7th Oct - Group E
Finland1 - 2Sweden
Holland1 - 0Moldova
Fri 7th Oct - Group F
Latvia2 - 0Malta
Greece2 - 0Croatia
Fri 7th Oct - Group D
Bos & Herz5 - 0Luxembourg
Romania2 - 2Belarus
France3 - 0Albania
Fri 7th Oct - Group H
Cyprus1 - 4Denmark
Portugal5 - 3Iceland
Fri 7th Oct - Group C
N Ireland1 - 2Estonia
Serbia1 - 1Italy
Fri 7th Oct - Group G
Wales2 - 0Switzerland
Montenegro2 - 2England
Fri 7th Oct - Group I
Czech Rep0 - 2Spain
European Championship Qualifying Group A
European Championship Qualifying Group B
|3||Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||0|
European Championship Qualifying Group C
European Championship Qualifying Group D
|5||Republic of Ireland||0||0|
European Championship Qualifying Group E
European Championship Qualifying Group F
European Championship Qualifying Group G
European Championship Qualifying Group H
European Championship Qualifying Group I
Sweden defender Olof Mellberg admits he hopes Wayne Rooney loses his appeal over a three-match Euro 2012 ban.
The Football Association is hoping UEFA will look favourably on its appeal to have England striker Wayne Rooney's three-match ban reduced.
Wayne Rooney's appeal against his three-match international ban has been brought forward 24 hours to 8th December.
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