England snatch draw against plucky Ukraine

A late Frank Lampard penalty gave England a hard-earned 1-1 draw at home to Ukraine in their World Cup Group H qualifier at Wembley.

An injury-ravaged England side looked to be on their way to defeat thanks to a fantastic first-half goal from Yevhen Konoplyanka but, after the introduction of substitutes Daniel Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge boosted the hosts, an incessant spell of pressure saw Welbeck win a penalty, which Lampard converted with aplomb.

Steven Gerrard saw red after picking up a late second booking, making it a creditable point given the circumstances as Ukraine were denied revenge for the 1-0 defeat to England that put them out of the European Championships this summer.

England lie second in Group H on four points, behind Montenegro on goal difference and ahead of Poland, although Ukraine have just played the one match so far.

Roy Hodgson’s side were missing Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Ashley Young, Andy Carroll, Kyle Walker and Jack Wilshere amongst others, with none of the strikers involved in the match first-choice for their club sides.

There were some glaring misses from the hosts too, as Tom Cleverley spurned two gilt-edged first-half chances before hitting the post, while Jermain Defoe – leading the line on his own until the two Dannys entered the play – missed one sitter and had another seemingly good goal disallowed for a soft foul on his marker as he struck the ball.

In front of an undersold Wembley crowd England overcame a scrappy start – during which the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cleverley repeatedly gave the ball away – to settle into a patient passing rhythm that seemed to put them in control of the match.

However, Konoplyanka – the standout player on the night – capitalised on some slack all-round defending from England to unleash a remarkable swerving long-range strike that flew from left to right into the top corner, giving the visitors a 38th-minute lead that was just about against the run of play.

England initially responded well – one of Cleverley’s misses and his effort against the woodwork came between that goal and the break – but a sluggish opening to the second half saw them fail to adequately build on what had been a promising first 45 minutes, discounting the goal.

They could have fallen further behind but for a last-gasp tackle from Leighton Baines to deny Roman Zozulya a simple finish after a fine run and cross from Konoplyanka, again after England gave the ball away, Phil Jagielka the culprit this time.

Hodgson – so deprived of options that he called 17-year-old Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling into the squad – responded by throwing on Welbeck, Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand in quick succession, and the injection of urgency did England the world of good.

Indeed it revitalised the whole game, which had started to flag but finished in style as England threw caution to the wind while their guests repeatedly cut through on the counter attack.

Welbeck was the catalyst, initially starting on the left but moving inside freely, while Glen Johnson – who was the best of England’s pre-substitution players going forward but poor defensively – forced an excellent save from Andriy Pyatov with a fizzing low drive after a trademark surging run from right-back.

Ukraine were well-organised though and time was running out, England seeming to have missed their chance when Welbeck prodded his 82nd-minute finish against the post after good work from Gerrard and Sturridge in the build-up.

Welbeck was a villain two minutes later though, diving in an attempt to win a penalty but waved up by the Turkish referee, a foolish decision given he had a shooting opportunity inside the box.

The Manchester United forward, whose first-team chances have been reduced by the signing of Robin van Persie, had time to be a hero though when his clever flick in the box was handled by Yevhen Khacheridi, the referee pointing to the spot this time.

With five minutes remaining Lampard stepped up, drilling home a penalty that would have been unstoppable even if Pyatov dived the correct way.

A frantic finale ensued, with both sides looking to win it and Ukraine boosted in injury time after Gerrard was dismissed after his late lunge on Denis Garmash earned him a second caution, the first of which came for a stray elbow that could have prompted a straight red.

It was a fair result in the end and one which, in the grand scheme of things, will only be important after the reverse fixture in Ukraine this time next year.

In Poland, captain Jakub Blaszczykowski led the hosts from the front, scoring one goal and setting up the other as his side breezed past Moldova 2-0.

Blaszczykowski put the home team ahead with a penalty in the 33rd minute after Lukasz Piszczek was brought down by midfielder Arthur Patras.

Poland were rarely at their best but they made the game safe with eight minutes to go as Jakub Wawrzyniak headed in a cross from the skipper.

The Poles, who have four points from two qualifying games, are level with Group H rivals England and the two teams meet in Warsaw on October 16.

"We will have to get stronger for the England match," coach Waldemar Fornalik said.

But it is Montenegro who end the international break on top of Group H after a 6-0 pummelling of minnows San Marino. Branko Brnovic's side are above England and Poland in the table thanks to a superior goal difference.