Cole saves Fabio's blushes
Joe Cole struck in injury time to earn England a 2-2 draw against Czech Republic at Wembley.
Last Updated: 21/08/08 10:53am
Joe Cole struck in injury time to ensure England ended their preparations for the beginning of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers with a 2-2 draw against Czech Republic at Wembley.
Fabio Capello's side face back-to-back away qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia in September as they begin their quest to reach South Africa in two years' time and the Italian was hoping to go into his first competitive game as England boss with a win.
But Capello was forced to settle for a hard-fought draw as first Wes Brown cancelled out Milan Baros' opener and substitute Joe Cole then struck a late equaliser after Marek Jankulovski had again given Czech Republic the lead.
The Czechs were in front on 22 minutes when a Baros strike from 10 yards deflected off Ashley Cole to wrong-foot David James, making his 40th appearance in the England goal.
England, though, were level one minute before the interval as Brown climbed the highest at a David Beckham corner to power a header past Czech shot-stopper Petr Cech for his first international goal.
However, parity was to remain for only three minutes of the second half as, with James motionless, midfielder Jankulovski curled Czech Republic back into the lead with an exquisite left-footed free-kick.
England, under the full-time captaincy of John Terry, looked to be heading for defeat, but Joe Cole was the saviour as he scrambled in from close range in time added on.
Capello goes into next month's qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia on the back of victories over Switzerland, USA and Trinidad and Tobago, defeat to France and this unconvincing draw.
The former Real Madrid, Juventus and Roma boss had told his players that it was time to deliver, and that the experimenting was over after last season's matches - with that in mind it is clear that Wayne Rooney is preferred as a foil to an out-and-out striker.
Jermain Defoe in the first half, then Emile Heskey in the second, partnered the Manchester United forward in a fluid formation that allowed Rooney to drop deep but also played into the hands of the visitors.
The warning signs were there as early as the quarter-hour mark when Jan Polak slid the ball through to Baros, whose fierce drive required a sharp save from James.
Czech Republic are rated seventh in the Fifa world rankings but the talk before the match was of Terry retaining the captaincy rather than Capello's men being given their sternest test under the new management.
The opener came in the 22nd minute, with the build-up starting on the left flank. Radek Sirl checked his run to trick Brown then passed square to Baros, whose finish cannoned in off Ashley Cole.
Falling a goal behind sparked England's midfield into their first period of sustained pressure on Cech's goal.
The Chelsea goalkeeper was forced to save from Defoe three times, although two efforts were too close to him.
If England were running out of ideas when going forward, it took the reliable right boot of David Beckham to help draw them level.
Beckham's corner from the right flank was swung towards goal and Brown headed in at the near post to give Capello his equaliser seconds before the half-time break.
However, in the 48th minute, Brown had given the ball away for Polak to have a long-range effort as the Czechs started brightly.
Then came the goal after Gareth Barry had launched himself into another reckless challenge after testing the patience of referee Terje Hauge in the first half as Jankulovski's free-kick curled into the top corner.
It could have got worse for England, with Beckham expecting an offside that never happened and Vaclav Sverkos rounding James but putting his finish into the side-netting.
Sensing another lacklustre England evening, the Wembley crowd started Mexican waves as well as jeering David Bentley when he was brought on for Frank Lampard.
Stewart Downing came off the bench and fired an effort wide as England were reduced to long-range efforts when long balls to Heskey did not work.It looked like a second defeat in five matches for Capello until Joe Cole struck, saving face on an embarrassing evening.
|England||Team Statistics||Czech Republic|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|9||Shots on Target||4|
|1||Shots off Target||5|