England defence pulled apart

2010-06-28 00:00

AFTER 44 years, yesterday it was England’s turn to suffer a controversial disallowed goal that might ultimately have proved costly, but also papered over the cracks of being overwhelmed 4-1 in their World Cup second round defeat against Germany at the Free State Stadium yesterday.

The disallowed goal had echoes of the 1966 final on home soil against Germany when Geoff Hurst’s shot against the crossbar allegedly bounced outside the goal-line but was allowed to stand, the hosts going on to a 4-2 victory.

Yesterday, with the score at 2-1, and England having bravely fought back from 2-0 down to 2-1 via Matt Upson’s 37th-minute headed goal, Germany gained revenge within a minute for a 44-year-old injustice.

Frank Lampard’s drive from outside the area cannoned off the crossbar and bounced a foot inside the line, but Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda and his assistant, Mauricio Espinosa, waved play on.

While England were able to go into the break still in the game, coach Fabio Capello pointed out that the disallowed goal changed everything because it allowed Germany to continue playing a counter-attacking game, which the Germans utilised to devastating effect in the second half.

Under Capello, England looked the real deal in the qualifiers, and were tipped as semi-final favourites and dark horses for the title. But their performance has been unconvincing, leading to another disappointing failure at the World Cup finals.

This despite possessing a world-class line-up and player in striker Wayne Rooney, who was one of Europe’s in-form performers in the past season. Rooney did not score at the World Cup and his patchy performance reflected that of the overall team. As in Germany in 2006, where they crashed out on penalties to Portugal in the quarter-finals, the reputations of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and John Terry have counted for little in terms of hard-earned success.

The disallowed goal aside, and despite putting up a fight, England were overrun by Germany’s speed and movement in attack. First-half anger against the referee turned to humiliation for their legions in the stands.

The Germans pulled the English defence apart with their mobile movement and crisp, diagonal running, with Terry and Matthew Upson in the centre embarrassingly exposed for pace.

Germany took the lead in the 20th minute when Klose, running on to what should have been a pedestrian kick from goal by Martin Neuer, shrugged off Upson’s attempt to hold the striker back and stretched to beat David James to the ball and finish.

In the 31st minute it was 2-0 to Germany. Klose’s beautifully executed side-footed chip saw Bayern Munich’s 20-year-old forward, Thomas Mueller, who was free in space on the right, play the ball over the top to Lucas Podolski to finish past James from a tight angle on the left.

But England showed their bulldog spirit to fight back into the game.

In the 37th minute Upson got up high to Steven Gerard’s cross from the right and nodded in the goal that made it 2-1.

Within a minute the match erupted in controversy, when Lampard’s shot struck the crossbar and bounced a good foot over the line, which was visible from the stands but not to the officials on the pitch.

Lampard’s impossibly poor fortune continued at the start of the second half when his 35 metre free-kick thudded off the crossbar.

But Germany killed the game off with brutal efficiency with two quick goals. In the 67th minute, with England pushing for an equaliser, a German counterattack saw Bastian Shweinsteiger provide the final pass to Mueller on the right, whose shot went in off James.

With England’s defence in tatters, Germany poached a fourth goal three minutes later, Mesut Oezil finding acres of space on the left and picking out Mueller at the far post to touch in his second, and add to his burgeoning reputation at the World Cup.

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