Dour England labour to Ukraine stalemate in Euro 2024 qualifier
England are a step closer to sealing Euro 2024 qualification despite surrendering their 100% record in Group C following a 1-1 draw against Ukraine.
Oleksandr Zinchenko scored an emotional opening goal for the home team, who were forced to stage the game in Poland, before his former Manchester City teammate Kyle Walker netted a vital equaliser shortly before half-time
Gareth Southgate, as anticipated, stuck with the old guard of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson in the spine of a team that was missing the likes of John Stones and Jack Grealish.
England dominated possession in the early stages, but a blocked shot from two-time Player of the Year Bukayo Saka aside, the visitors were largely kept at arm’s length.
Having weathered the early pressure, Ukraine began to show more ambition and were immediately rewarded for showing more endeavour when Arsenal’s Zinchenko capped a flowing move to put his side ahead in the 26th minute.
Southgate’s side responded immediately and could have equalised instantly had Henderson opted to shoot when he was located inside the penalty area by Harry Kane’s astute pass, rather than squander possession by attempting to tee up James Maddison.
A largely frustrating half ended on a high for the Three Lions, however, when Walker poked home is first England goal on what was his 77th appearance for his country.
A frustrated Harry Kane dropped deep to receive the ball and played a sensational pass over the top which located the City full-back, who finished with uncharacteristic aplomb.
The second period began in a similar fashion with England probing to little effect until shortly before the hour mark when Saka detonated a trademark shot against the crossbar via the fingertips of Georgiy Bushchan, having cut in on his left foot.
Southgate made a double change midway through the half with Phil Foden and Marcus Rashfrod replacing Jude Bellingham and James Maddison but the substitutions did little to improve England’s cohesiveness.
Conor Gallagher’s introduction at the expense of Saka with five minutes remaining suggested Southgate was content with the point that keeps England in control of their own destiny with Italy to come at Wembley next month.
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