England 2 - 2 Switzerland


By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Wembley
England 2 - 2 Switzerland
James Milner, Ashley Young, Leighton Baines Ashley Young came on at half-time for England

England were held to a draw after surviving a major scare against Switzerland as they were forced to come from two goals behind to earn a point in the Euro 2012 qualifier at Wembley.

Fabio Capello's out-of-sorts side looked to be heading for a damaging defeat and a heavy blow to their hopes of reaching Poland and Ukraine next summer as Switzerland deservedly took command.

Tranquillo Barnetta was the grateful beneficiary of uncertain England defending and poor goalkeeping from Joe Hart as he twice saw speculative free-kicks end in the back of the net in the first half.

Wembley was noisily registering its unrest with Capello and England, who were without the suspended Wayne Rooney, when Johan Djourou's foul on Jack Wilshere gave Frank Lampard the opportunity to pull a goal back from the spot before the interval and provide the foundations for a second-half recovery.

Capello mystifyingly left Ashley Young out despite a match-winning display in the Euro 2012 qualifier win in Wales in March and he only underlined the folly of the decision by emerging as substitute at half-time and striking a fine equaliser six minutes after coming on.

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Capello concerned by lack of energy

England should have capitalised on their growing momentum to win, but Darren Bent failed to reproduce the finishing touches that have brought him goals in three successive appearances. He was blocked by Diego Benaglio when he was played in by Wilshere then blazed over the top of an open goal late on after Young's shot was saved by Switzerland's keeper.

Defeat would have been harsh on the Swiss, predictably well-organised under the masterly direction of veteran coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, and in midfield man Xherdan Shaqiri they have one of Europe's rising stars.

England have now gone four games without a win at Wembley, their longest sequence without a victory in 30 years, and still have much work to do to reach Euro 2012 as they prepare for a testing trip to face Bulgaria in Sofia in September.

Capello watched in frustration as England defended poorly and failed to provide any ammunition or support for Bent until after the break - but he was the architect of his own problems.

The selection of James Milner ahead of Young was the product of muddled thinking and the absence of Peter Crouch - with 22 goals in 42 England appearances - from even the substitutes' bench was also a surprise.

Milner and Theo Walcott failed to justify their selection ahead of Aston Villa's Young as they struggled ineffectually in the first half, leaving striker Bent isolated and starved of supply as Switzerland looked the more composed and ordered team.
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Capello's choice of Milner ahead of Young was close to inexplicable but smacked of unnecessary caution

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Glen Johnson almost gave England the perfect start after only two minutes when he met Lampard's corner at the far post but Switzerland keeper Benaglio spread himself to make the block.

Hart's eventful half started when he saved smartly from Eren Derdiyok then scrambled to turn away Gokhan Inler's shot after it took a deflection off the outstretched leg of the recalled Rio Ferdinand.

England's keeper was by far the busier and he was in action again to save from the industrious and intelligent Shaqiri as Switzerland grew in confidence.

Ferdinand's header was narrowly off target before Switzerland stunned Wembley with two goals in three minutes just after the half-hour to take command in a fashion that visibly infuriated Capello as he stood in his technical area.

Capello had just been forced to replace Ashley Cole, injured in an early tackle on Valon Behrami, with Leighton Baines and the Everton defender could only watch as his defensive colleagues handed the initiative to the Swiss.

Barnetta was the goalscorer on both occasions - with England twice demonstrating a costly inability to deal with routine free-kicks into their penalty area. The first was floated in and missed by Ferdinand, wrong-footing Hart as it landed in the far corner.

The second was even more calamitous, with the wall formed by Walcott and Milner breaking hopelessly and Hart reduced to an awkward attempt to kick Barnetta's effort away from his near post, an effort that ended in embarrassing failure.

England were desperate for a lifeline before the interval and Djourou provided it after 37 minutes with a lunge at Arsenal team-mate Wilshere that resulted in a penalty, converted by Lampard.

Wembley reacted with jeers at half-time - and Capello's response was to replace Lampard with Young. The switch was rewarded within six minutes as Baines cleverly chested a chipped pass into Young's path and set up a low angled finish past Benaglio.

England's shape looked more comfortable and they were now in charge. Wilshere's wonderful run and pass sent Bent clear, but Benaglio plunged bravely at his feet to save.

Bent, so reliable in front of goal for England in recent games, was then guilty of an awful miss as he threw away the opportunity to complete the comeback with 20 minutes left. The lively Young's shot was saved by Benaglio to leave Bent with what looked like a formality in front of an open goal, but he side-footed his finish over the bar with the Swiss keeper stranded.

Young's second-half show only highlighted Capello's errors in selection and he almost got his second when he reached Milner's pull back, but could not trouble Benaglio.

As the game entered three minutes of stoppage time, both sides almost snatched the win. Substitute Admir Mehmedi was inches away with Hart beaten and Stewart Downing, on for Walcott, shot weakly into the side-netting with the last kick of the game as England had to settle for a point.

While they were disappointed with the result, the home team's prospects of qualification were boosted later on Saturday as Montenegro, England's main rivals for top spot in Group G, drew 1-1 against Bulgaria in Podgorica, ensuring Capello's men stay ahead on goal difference.

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