Under the weather
As part of our snap-shots features, we look back as England were pegged to a 1-1 draw by Poland in their latest World Cup qualifier.
Last Updated: October 17, 2012 10:56pm
Making a point: England could only manage a draw against Poland
After a 20-hour delay due to a severely waterlogged pitch at the Warsaw National Stadium on Tuesday night, England finally played their World Cup qualifier with Poland, but it wasn't necessarily worth the wait.
Roy Hodgson's men took the lead through a fortunate Wayne Rooney goal in the first half but Poland claimed a deserved share of the spoils after Kamil Glik equalised, with the Three Lions players admitting they weren't at their best on a sodden pitch in Warsaw.
Captain Steven Gerrard and left-back Ashley Cole were both included by manager Hodgson to earn their respective 99th caps as they both close on the century milestone. Cole's display wasn't his finest as he found himself under pressure from the Polish attack but Gerrard was a reassuring presence in midfield, particularly in a difficult opening half hour. Glen Johnson was a bright spark on his recall after a suspension, holding firm in defence while also showing competence going forward. Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Jermain Defoe made up the rest of the six changes from the line-up which eased to victory over San Marino on Friday. There was no place in the starting XI for Danny Welbeck despite his two goals over the minnows, with Defoe given a chance by Hodgson following his impressive form for Tottenham this season.
England failed to come alive on the sodden pitch in Warsaw as poor passing let them down, with the visitors' age-old problem of struggling to retain the ball rearing its head again. Defoe and Rooney were named up front, with the Manchester United man occupying an increasingly familiar deeper role to suggest a 4-4-1-1. Defoe looked isolated and starved of the ball at times at the head of attack as England sat deep, with Tom Cleverley struggling to impress in an unfamiliar position out on the left. James Milner was brighter on the opposite flank thanks to an impressive workrate, while Rooney grabbed England's only goal but again struggled to hit the form of which he's capable. Gerrard was his usual threat from set-pieces but couldn't prevent the sloppy passing in midfield, while Carrick was one of the main culprits. At the back, Johnson was mostly effective on the right of defence but Cole ran into trouble against Kamil Grosicki, while centre-half pairing Jagielka and Lescott were kept busy by the Polish attack.
Rooney moved out left in the second half to fill out Hodgson's midfield, with Defoe making way for Welbeck soon after the restart as the boss looked to inject some much-needed life into England's attack. Unfortunately for the visitors, it was Poland who netted minutes later to level the scores. Hodgson's response may have raised a few eyebrows as he brought off goalscorer Rooney for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with 17 minutes remaining but the frontman had not enjoyed his best afternoon. While the youngster brought fresh energy to the encounter, he couldn't help England regain their lead. Hodgson admitted afterwards the soggy pitch was more suited to a long-ball game, but oddly aerial specialist Andy Carroll was not involved as the boss stuck with just two changes.
After his antics splashing in the puddles with the ball on the sodden Warsaw pitch on Tuesday night, Italian official Gianluca Rocchi wasn't stretched when the match finally did get underway the following afternoon. A quiet game saw the referee hand out only three bookings, one of which seemed harsh as it went to Cole for time-wasting in just the 38st minute.
England have got two more qualifiers under their belts but we've seen nothing spectacular from Hodgson's men in this international break. There's still a fair way to go on the road to Brazil and England sit top of Group H, but the pressure will now be on when they travel to second-placed Montenegro following a trip to San Marino in March. Four points from the two games is not a bad haul but the encounters have raised familiar questions over weaknesses in England's game, including passing, movement and a lack of ideas, with no obvious creative figure running the show in midfield.