So how was the Ukraine v England game?

What happened on the night?

Both sides could have done with a win, and so they started brightly with plenty of attacking intent. But this created few decent chances and they began cancelling each other out. The England side looked like almost every England side of the last fifteen years – lacking any real skill, most dangerous at set pieces. Ukraine were the more dangerous overall, but didn’t capitalise.

Which players stood out?

Yevhen Konoplianka showed some great skill on the left, Ukraine’s stand-out player. I thought Andriy Yarmolenko might disappoint on the other wing – and he did. He’s very highly-rated, but seems to lack application. Edmar passed the ball well at times, and sub Roman Bezus made an impact in attack when he came on. Even before the game, some Ukrainian fans were saying he should have started.

For England, the central defence looked solid – able to deal well with the mobile Zozulya. Otherwise there wasn’t much to note – though at times Walcott caught the eye with this pace.

Which manager will be happiest?

A point away to Ukraine has been a decent result since at least the turn of the century – and perhaps a little longer – so Roy Hodgson was right to be pleased, though he should be worried that England have only beaten Moldova and San Marino so far in the group. That will have to change if they are to qualify.

Mykhailo Fomenko seemed to have settled for a point when he brought on two very late subs to run the clock down, but had perhaps accepted from about the 65th minute that 0-0 was the most likely outcome. A point still keeps Ukraine in touch with England – and it will be seen as a massive point should Ukraine qualify ahead of England.

What happens next?

England play Montenegro and Poland, and Ukraine play Poland and San Marino. All four of England, Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro could still qualify, though Poland have the toughest run-in. I expect England and Ukraine to take the top two spots as their games are certainly winnable – though if anyone’s going to draw one of the two games it will be England.

Saul Pope is a contributor to When Saturday Comes magazine and blogger on Russian and Ukrainian football. His Twitter is @saulpope.


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