Another glorious chapter in English football history unfolded tonight as plucky England held on to secure a memorable draw against the might of Montenegro.
The Balkan giants, who had to be separated from Serbia amidst fears of total football domination, arrived at Wembley obviously unbeaten in their opening 3 qualifying games, crushing Wales, Bulgaria and Switzerland by 1-0 in each game. England on the other hand had scraped past Bulgaria 4-0 and struggled to a 3-1 victory in Switzerland.
ITV were obviously aware of the Montenegrens, or Montegans as Adrian Chiles referred to them, stature comparing them in size to Leeds. However it was only in terms of population. Come on let’s be honest we should be beating opposition of this quality quite easily. For a man who (I like to think) knows a bit about football not to know who Marko Vucinic, the Montenegrens star player is (Roma striker, Serie A is not my bag) says a lot about who we were playing.
It started cautiously, England probing, but not threatening. Dominating possession England looked for Gerrard to slide balls through and over the defence or constantly ping from side to side in the hope that Ashley Young or Adam Johnson could get down the flanks.
(Digressing a little I still find it a little hard to believe that Johnson is the same player we had on loan for a while in the Championship relegation season. He was useless then and couldn’t envisage him making a living from the game never mind an International career.)
Peter Crouch missed a good chance heading over from 8 yards but it was pretty dismal fare and the Crouch/Rooney partnership was pretty toothless, in fact it looked like neither could score in a brothel.
Half time came with a 0-0 scoreline and Peter Drury killed England’s hopes just 30 seconds into the second half when he announced that “England have never failed to score at new Wembley”. All that remained was for the keeper who Andy Townsend said was a “bit flappy” to produce a couple of good saves to deny Rooney and Townsend to continue to talk out of his arse by saying that a yellow card for an Ashley Young dive was “outrageous” despite Young going up and over a defenders leg, actually performing a pike Tom Daley would have been proud of.
England failed to get a penalty for a blatant handball from the German officials but this bad luck was cancelled out when Jovanovic thumped a shot against the bar from 20 yards after Rooney had jumped out of a tackle seconds earlier.
Man of the Match was tightly contested. Glenn Johnson went close with some horrifically overhit crosses, passes, shots etc, but he was pipped by Gareth Barry. The Man City star gave a passing master class, never misplacing a pass and finding a red shirt every time. Unfortunately England were in white.
Chiles back in the studio asked Gareth Southgate to cheer us all up. Southgate obliged by pointing out it was a bad result, that our next opponents Wales only had beating us to play for, making those games more difficult and that we probably now had to win in Podgoricia in the final game to qualify. Chiles retorted that Montenegro would drop points, but Southgate was not to be beaten, piping up that we would still need to win ours.
So the formality of qualification is no longer a formality. The papers will no doubt have a field day tomorrow, but it will soon be forgotten as we go back to domestic action. Its armchair viewing again on Saturday at Boro.