Frank Lampard’s late equalizer spared Roy Hodgson from losing his first competitive home match as England coach on Tuesday, salvaging a 1-1 draw against Ukraine in 2014 World Cup qualifying.
Lampard scored his 26th England goal in the 87th minute from the penalty spot after Yevhen Khacheridi handled the ball, cancelling out Yevhen Konoplianka’s first-half opener.
But England’s pursuit of a winner was stymied by being reduced to 10 men when captain Steven Gerrard received a second yellow card for fouling Denys Garmash.
“These games are not easy and in the end getting a point is a good result considering we were 1-0 down with 10 minutes to go,” Lampard said.
Konoplianka had put Ukraine in front in the 39th, crisply curling the ball from 25 yards (meters) into the top corner of Joe Hart’s goal in the team’s first qualifier on the road to Brazil.
“For us it’s a big positive result because we got a point,” Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin said through a translator.
England has four points along with Montenegro at the top of Group H after opening qualifying with a 5-0 rout in Moldova on Friday.
“We went a goal down to a wonder goal but I was really pleased with the way we kept tidy, kept trying and didn’t resort to any hopeful long balls,” said Hodgson, who was appointed in May before Euro 2012. “We kept playing through and creating chances and we were rewarded in the end ... because had we lost the game it would have been very harsh on us.”
Injuries forced the hosts to cope without the experience of defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole, and striker Wayne Rooney, with Ukraine on a revenge mission after being contentiously eliminated by England from the European Championship it was co-hosting.
Marko Devic, who wasn’t playing at Wembley, had a goal wrongly disallowed in Donetsk despite the ball crossing the line.
It was England’s turn to feel aggrieved 84 days on.
Jermain Defoe believed he had put Roy Hodgson’s side in front after 10 minutes only to be penalized for fouling Andriy Yarmolenko while cutting into the penalty area.
“It wasn’t a foul at all so we’ve very disappointed with that,” Gerrard said.
But all the early danger had come from the visitors.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart had been beaten when Oleg Gusiev’s shot deflected off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but he was saved by the post.
And it required a combination of interventions by Gerrard and Hart to block Ruslan Rotan’s shot after Ukraine broke forward when Tom Cleverley conceded possession cheaply on the halfway line.
When there were openings in front of goal, England was far too complacent, with Cleverley squandering two golden chances in the first half of his third England appearance.
The Manchester United midfielder headed straight at goalkeeper Andri Piatov’s feet from point blank range after being setup by Defoe.
And in the search for an equalizer, there was not enough urgency from Cleverley when Lampard squared the ball with precision to him, making a sloppy connection with his heel and missing the target.
“We created certain problems in the first half for the England team they couldn’t solve,” Blokhin said through a translator.
After the break, England’s forays forward were equally forlorn, with Defoe striking wide from distance and Danny Welbeck blasting the ball against the post, leaving a frustrated Hodgson holding his head in his hands.
But Lampard’s late intervention prevented England suffering its first home loss in a competitive match in five years.
“The young players we had in the squad were probably a little bit intimidated we were leading against England,” Blokhin said. “The England team has excelled in the second half and we have got tired.”