World Cup - Paper Round: Horrible night for 'second rate' England

There was a predictable newspaper response to England's 'game of two halves' performance against Montenegro on Tuesday night.

There was universal disappointment with England for their performance on the pitch and some condemnation for the behaviour of the home fans off it.

Here is how the country's top sports writers saw the match in Podgorica.


The Telegraph: Heroes to zeros

Henry Winter: The flares being lit by the Montenegrin supporters could easily have been English distress signals in the second half. Confident before the break, abject after it, England delivered one of their worst 45 minutes since playing Algeria at the last World Cup and they have damaged their hopes of playing in the next. This was a horrible night at the City Stadium. Ashley Cole was showered in spit when taking a throw-in. A photographer had a cup of urine thrown over him. Lighters, coins and plastic bottles were lobbed at players. If any more loo-paper had been thrown, Joe Hart risked resembling a mummy. Up amongst the Ultras on the top tier behind Hart’s goal in the second half, Megaphone Man whipped up the passions, even sending Hart and the players towards the tunnel at the final whistle with a loud chant of “England, England, ---- you, ---- you, England”. An FA official discreetly filmed all the trouble yet any complaints by the English will merely be filed in the “sour grapes” in-tray at UEFA. Copacabana seemed a long, long way away last night.


The Times: England living on their nerves

Matt Dickinson: Hail the resourcefulness and spirit of Montenegro. Worry for England. The smoke billowing across the pitch was not quite Roy Hodgson’s World Cup campaign going up in flames. Remarkably, his team remain in control of their destiny in group H, though it would be rash to say that they are in control of anything. At one stage last night they seemed in complete control of this game and the qualifying group. How illusory that looked by the end. What is this disease? And, more pertinently, what is the cure? Different manager, different formation, different players — same old nightmares. Fabio Capello suffered a similar collapse in Podgorica in October 2011, watching a 2-0 stroll become a fraught 2-2 draw. But we can go back farther still, to the days of Sven-Göran Eriksson. What was it the Swede used to say? "First half good, second half not so good." However, this was a case of "first half remarkably promising, second half truly bloody awful". It is the extremes that are so dispiriting.


The Guardian: Wayne Rooney's shot at exorcism turns sour for England

Dominic Fifield: This should have been about Wayne Rooney achieving redemption, with the perceived natural order restored and England back resplendent at the summit of their qualifying section. Instead, as the acrid smoke from the flares ignited at each end of this cramped arena drifted into the night sky and the home support bellowed their appreciation all around, Roy Hodgson and his staff trudged across the turf choked by numbing disappointment. An opportunity had been missed and, with six months to endure before competitive action is revisited, memories of Montenegro will continue to unnerve…As England lulled, so Rooney drifted from the fray and his mood soured. He will always be a player whose temper can turn in a second, all the demons roaring back in, and the sloppiness that set in for much of the second period tested his maturity. There was one rant at a linesman and screamed exasperation when another pass went astray. He departed down the tunnel at the final whistle as if a cloud was hovering above his head, smouldering at the wastefulness of it all. His personal reward in Podgorica felt diminished; England departed only with regret.


The Independent: Wayne Rooney confronts demons in Montenegro but England fail to shake off past

James Lawton: Wayne Rooney came to a place where before he had found only ignominy and for a little while he chased away every demon. He also gave England an invitation to announce they really are a world-class force. Unfortunately, it plainly requires more than a superior performance from one individual running out of the shadows to work such a transformation. England surrendered the high ground won by Rooney and at the end they were still trailing in their pursuit of a place in the World Cup finals. Some argued pragmatically that a point is a point but no one should hide behind such a mole-hill of encouragement. Once again England, by the most severe demands of international football, were not quite fit for purpose.


The Sun: England freeze again

Steven Howard: How do they go from a well-balanced and well-organised side playing attractive and athletic football to a second-half shambles? How do Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick - and a few others - actually disappear off the radar completely after the break? There is just no consistency here. No stamina, no cohesion, no footballing intelligence. And not a great deal in the creative department to come in. If they continue like this, fail to take advantage of their home games and come up with more dropped points in Ukraine, then you fear for their qualification prospects. Should England be plunged into a play-off against a team of the calibre of France, Portugal, Sweden and either Croatia or Belgium, you can see the whole process blowing up in their faces. Instead of Copacabana it will be Southend.


Daily Mail: SECOND RATE! England are left in second place after second-half shambles

Martin Samuel: England return from the land of black mountains with darkness descending on their World Cup campaign. In normal circumstances, this would be regarded as a useful away point against difficult opposition, but Roy Hodgson is already playing catch-up in Group H. Given the advantage of an early goal and a very promising first-half display, his England team failed to advance a single step on the group leaders, Montenegro. They were simply overwhelmed after half-time and fortunate not to lose. Joe Hart made several stunning saves and Montenegro hit a post in a frantic goalmouth scramble. Montenegro's resurgence came as a shock. To those watching but, most troublingly, to England's players. Part of this team was patched up, but it is really no excuse. With so many injuries, the makeshift central defensive pairing of Joleon Lescott and Chris Smalling always had the potential to be a point of weakness, and the midfield crumbled under pressure in the final half hour leaving them exposed and manic. The presumption of qualification is questionable after this.


Daily Star: Roy's half cut – England blow it after Rooney head start

David Woods: At first England made Montenegro look more like Monty Python. But then their rivals remembered actions speak louder than words. The joke was initially on the Three Lions’ mouthy rivals, who had tried so hard to wind up Roy Hodgson and his team. Coach Branko Brnovic had talked the talk, describing England as long-ball merchants who were running scared. His jibes seemed to inspire the Three Lions to produce some of the best quickfire pass-and-move football we have seen from England for some time…. Montenegro has a population of around 620,000 – around the same as Cambridgeshire. But two of that small number are impressive strikers, in Juventus star and the country’s skipper Mirko Vucinic and Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic. Vucinic claimed probably his most valuable strike of the season when he bagged the 78th-minute winner for 10-man Montenegro in Moldova on Friday and last night’s draw keeps them two points clear of England at the head of World Cup qualifying Group H.


Daily Mirror: Lions left hanging on in proverbial game of two halves

Martin Lipton: You hoped they might have learned. Thought they would know better. But, as England turned their World Cup campaign into Groundhog Day, failing to heed the lessons of recent history, the road to Brazil started to look more hazardous. Roy Hodgson will look for the positives. England are still unbeaten, remain - just - masters of their own destiny, and three of the last four games are at Wembley. But there is no longer any margin of error. And as the familiar pattern, win one, draw one, which has become the norm since September, re-emerged here in Podgorica, the negatives carried more weight.