Soccer

England held by Swiss

2011-06-04 20:35
Frank Lampard (AFP)

Wembley - England's wretched defending gifted Switzerland a 2-2 draw in their 2012 European Championship qualifier on Saturday.

Tranquillo Barnetta scored a rapid first-half double, with a first free kick curled over Rio Ferdinand and bouncing before wrong footing goalkeeper Joe Hart after 32 minutes.

A second free kick three minutes later went through England's porous defensive wall and beat Hart at his near post.

Frank Lampard pulled one back from the penalty spot for England in the 37th minute and substitute Ashley Young leveled with a powerful strike six minutes into the second half.

But Darren Bent squandered two chances to claim a winner, lacking the sharpness in front of goal in the absence of suspended striker Wayne Rooney.

The draw took England a point clear of Montenegro in Group G, but the second-place side was still to play Bulgaria on Saturday night.

"We deserved better and we are disappointed in the changing room," Young said. "We created chances, especially in the second half and on another day they would have gone in. We had to come out fighting in the second half and we showed we've got a good team spirit."

With three games to go and only the top team guaranteed a spot at Euro 2012, the dropped points mean it is far from certain that England will qualify. They missed out on qualification for Euro 2008.

The draw reminded coach Fabio Capello of his team's shortcomings a year after England's bleak World Cup campaign, which led to several changes of personnel in the squad.

Despite a vibrant win in their previous qualifier, against Wales in March, Capello made three changes from the side that won 2-0 in Cardiff.

Rooney was replaced by Theo Walcott and Rio Ferdinand returned from injury to partner captain John Terry in central defence.

The surprise was Capello's decision to drop Young in favor of James Milner on the left flank. He introduced the Aston Villa winger only at halftime, in place of Lampard.

England made a positive start, with Glen Johnson's header parried by Diego Benaglio, but the hosts struggled to sustain the pressure.

The match came alive in a five-minute spell after Johnson conceded a free kick. Barnetta's free kick was able to float over Ferdinand and the ball bounced between Granit Xhaka and Johan Djourou before going into Hart's net.

England's disorganized defence had little time to recover before Hart committed a glaring error at the end of a season when he had established himself as the first-choice keeper for both Manchester City and England.

As the free kick delivered from the left flank pierced England's defensive wall and bounced inside Hart's near post, his boot helped the ball over the line.

There was a lifeline for England a minute later when Djourou brought down Jack Wilshere and Lampard scored from the spot.

Walcott had a penalty appeal dismissed at the start of the second half before Young leveled, drilling the ball into the bottom right corner after another substitute, Leighton Baines, chested the ball into his path.

The first of Bent's two wasted chances to claim a winner came in the 65th minute, when Wilshere released him with a precise through-ball only to hesitate and see the ball blocked by Benaglio.

Six minutes later, when Benaglio parried another strike from Young, Bent's first-time connection sent the rebound over the bar when he could have reacted more calmly with the goal at his mercy.

Read more on:    frank lampard  |  ashley young
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