Three Lions take pussycat point
An unimaginative and nervy display from England saw Fabio Capello's side pick up just a point against Algeria to leave them third in Group C.
By James Dall
Last Updated: 19/06/10 11:06am
An unimaginative and nervy performance from England saw Fabio Capello's side pick up just a point against Algeria to leave them third in Group C.
Having drawn their opening game of the 2010 World Cup against the United States of America, the Three Lions were expected to respond versus the Algerians on Friday night in Cape Town.
But Capello's men struggled to impose themselves on allegedly inferior opposition, with a first win of the tournament in their final game against Slovenia a likely must if they are to reach the last 16.
England manager Fabio Capello made the speculated call of dropping goalkeeper Robert Green, infamous for his error versus the United States, in favour of the experienced David James.
In defence, as expected, the injured Ledley King was replaced by Liverpool centre-back Jamie Carragher. Algeria, meanwhile, also opted for a change in shot-stopper, bringing in Rais M'bohli for Faouzi Chaouchi.
After two wasteful long balls aimed at Emile Heskey came to nothing, England's first half-chances came via uncertainty from goalkeeper M'bohli. First, the Algerian made a meal of a Steven Gerrard cross before a very poor kick fell to Wayne Rooney, whose ball to the captain petered to nothing.
The Three Lions again threatened on six minutes, Gerrard's ranging pass finding Ashley Cole down the left flank, but the Chelsea full-back was squeezed out of possession. And then England were given a fright when after James unconvincingly punched a cross high, Glen Johnson's sloppy clearance risked danger.
England's passing game continued to desert them in the opening exchanges, with Algeria looking the most accomplished with the ball at their feet. Indeed, the tricky Karim Ziani whipped in two tantalising crosses, the second of which was headed goalwards by Hassan Yebda but was easily dealt with by James.
Then, twice in the space of five minutes, the defensive-minded Barry made two vital clearances following tricky deliveries. Capello looked an angry customer on the touchline, barking out orders. And the Italian's instructions, almost paid dividends as the tempo quickened and Gerrard and Frank Lampard had efforts on goal, the latter well saved by M'bohli.
Ziani was undoubtedly Algeria's best outlet in the first period as he struck a shot wide. England lacked sustained pressure, with their better moments coming in fits and starts. Indeed, just prior to 40 minutes, a Wayne Rooney surge got fans of their feet before a tame Barry shot was routine for the Algerian keeper.
England trudged off at the break to a likely Capello scorning, with the country struggling for a foothold in a game they needed to perform and win, not fade. Their last real say of the final period was a limp, long-range strike from Rooney, such was the frustration of a period that panged a lack of confidence.
Capello made no changes to his side for the second half, despite the frustration of the first. England put together a combination between Heskey, Rooney and Gerrard, but the move was hooked clear. It was, though, a rare flicker of expression from Rooney, who struggled to impose the form that landed him the PFA Player of the Year award.
England were gifted a rare surge at the Algerian defence in the 55th minute when Barry intercepted. Gerrard led the charge but his cutback was tepid as Algeria mopped up. At the other end, England appeared troubled by their opponents, while a booking for Carragher ensures he will miss the final game versus Slovenia.
Capello's first shuffle of the pack was to bring on Shaun Wright-Phillips for Aaron Lennon, whose last contribution was a teasing cross that was nipped away by Rafik Halliche as Rooney lurked. And seconds later, England had a heart-in-mouth moment when a short back-pass had to be swept up by James.
Wright-Phillips tried to inject some spark into England, but their next attacking moment came courtesy of Gerrard's through ball to Heskey, who neither shot nor crossed as Halliche got across to block impressively, before Gerrard's header from a corner was straight at M'bohli.
Jermain Defoe entered the fray in place of the workmanlike Heskey in the 74th minute, and he almost made an instant impact when some rare bright combination play from England nearly sent the Tottenham striker clean in on goal.
Capello threw caution to the wind with six minutes remaining when he brought on beanpole striker Peter Crouch in place of holding player Barry. But it affected little for England, who toiled throughout the remainder of the encounter, with Algeria largely, and worryingly for the Three Lions, untroubled.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||1|
|6||Shots off Target||5|