Emirates stadium, London Zverotic 45, Delibasic 90 – Young 11, Bent 31 Rooney sent off 73
England got the point that they required to make the finals of Euro 2012, but will start the finals without their best player, after a moment of madness from Wayne Rooney saw him sent off for the second time in his England career.
The dismissal will see Rooney serve a minimum of a one game ban at the finals in Poland and the Ukraine next summer, but should referee Wolfgang Stark deem the incident, which saw Rooney take a spiteful hack at the legs of Miodrag Dzudovic, as violent conduct, which he surely will, then that ban could be up to three games. If that is the case then Rooney could potentially miss the entire group stage of the tournament.
What was most frustrating was the sheer petulance of the act, considering England were leading the game and he had, up until that point, been the fulcrum of everything good that England had done. For the first 44 minutes of the game that had been plenty, as England completely dominated a Montenegrin side who looked overawed by the task ahead of them. Knowing that a draw, coupled with a defeat for Switzerland in Wales, would guarantee a play-off place for the home side, a difficult task had been anticipated. What happened was that from the first whistle, England took control of the match as the home side froze in a frenzied atmosphere.
Fabio Capello had sent his side out in a variant on a 4-3-3 formation. Phil Jones was given a debut at right back. With the selection of Ashley Young and Theo Walcott, the Italian decided on two holding midfielders, Scott Parker and Gareth Barry, to provide protection. Wayne Rooney was given a free role, with Darren Bent spearheading the attack.
England were in front early on, Rooney finding Walcott in acres on the right, and the Arsenal man, so often wasteful, provided a perfect delivery for his wide partner, Ashley Young to arrive at the far post and nod home from 6 yards.
The goal sapped what little confidence the Montenegrins possessed, and when Young set up Bent to tap in and finish off a lightning counter attack to put England 2-0 up, the passage to Poland appeared to be sealed.
However sloppy defending right on half time allowed Elsad Zverotic far too much room to drive an effort which was deflected past Joe Hart. Confidence restored, the home side posed more of a threat in the second half, but despite putting England under more pressure, real chances were few and far between. However after Rooney’s indiscretion, the Montenegrins pressed on, buoyed by news of Wales win over the Swiss, which meant an equaliser would see a play-off spot clinched.
And as the clock ticked to 90 minutes, they got their reward when Dzudovic provided a perfect cross for Andrija Delibasic to meet with a towering header which sent the entire nation into rapture.
Montenegro (4-2-3-1) : Mladen Bozovic; Zverotic, Djudovic, Savic, Kascelan(Jovanovic HT); Vukcevic, Pekovic, Vladimir Bozovic (Delibasic79); Beciraj (Damjanovic 64), Jovetic; Vucinic
England (4-2-3-1): Hart; Jones, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Barry, Parker; Walcott (Welbeck 76), Young (Downing 60), Rooney; Bent (Lampard 64)
Did you know… Last time Wayne Rooney was sent off for England (v Portugal 2006), Montenegro wasn’t even a country.
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