United’s youngsters continue their England expedition

By at 11:24 am 12/09/2012

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England played host to Ukraine last night in their second World Cup Qualifier for Brazil 2014. Michael Carrick and Danny Welbeck may have been on the England bench but Tom Cleverley began his second successive competitive game for England and his first at Wembley.

He began the game almost unrecognised as England’s front men and wide players struggled to gain any decent possession of the ball. It actually took until the 22nd minute for Tom Cleverley to pick up the ball in any threatening area.

On countless ocassions, the ball was sprayed into a wide area and a hopeful cross would be cleared and lead to nothing. It screams of a typical English side, looking to desperately score a goal without any actual penetration or intelligent play. Never, has the opinion of mine, that Tom Cleverley must be partnered with a forward-thinking central midfielder been more evident that now.

Anderson is often deployed as his partner in a midfield two at Manchester United as he has a tendancy to drive forward and take risks, which is often why the Brazilian is criticised by many fans. Despite impressing against Moldova playing in the hole, his natural position is back in the centre of midfield and I think that he needs to be played there to get the best out of him.

Just 12 minutes later, Tom Cleverley had a golden chance to give England the lead as Jermain Defoe’s header cried out for a finishing touch but Tom’s shot somehow managed to hit the legs of Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov. A sitter? Yes. It made for even more criticism as Ukraine took the lead soon after following a stunning goal from Ukrainian wonderkid Yevhen Konoplyanka.

Just before half-time, Tom Cleverley had another chance to equalise for England as Frank Lampard pulled a ball back from the right-hand side as Cleverley’s misplaced shot dragged wide of the far post. This one was, however, a much more difficult chance but he should still have been hitting the target at least. There was more frustration before the half-time interval too as Tom Cleverley‘s tidy feet and movement gave him space to shoot but it ricocheted  off the outside of the post.

The second half rumbled on and Tom Cleverley was becoming less effective as the game continued, not by choice, but by the inability of those around him to get him involved as much as he would have liked. The bright midfielder was again involved just after the hour mark as his tidy one-two with Leighton Baines almost set up a chance for Frank Lampard.

He was replaced a minute later by his club teammate, Danny Welbeck. Tom didn’t have the best of games – his head was down after missing a few chances and he wasn’t able to impact and influence the game as much as he did against Moldova.

“I know I’m up against some great competition, Roy Hodgson has a wide variety of strikers to choose from. Jermain Defoe was selected ahead of me tonight and he’s a sharp shooter. I’m just biding my time and looking to make an impact when I do get on the pitch.” Danny Welbeck 

It didn’t take Danny Welbeck too long to get involved as he controlled a steering pass to the left-hand side well, held-up the ball and laid off neatly for Frank Lampard, but it came to nothing. It took until the 80th minute for Welbeck to make a real impact as his one-two passing between teammates pushed Ukraine further back. He was unlucky not to get himself on the score sheet after he controlled a Daniel Sturridge cross but thumped his effort against the post from six-yards out.

Only a couple of minutes later, Danny Welbeck was involved again. This time he tumbled over the leg of a Ukrainian defender. The instant reaction was penalty, but replays showed that there was minimal contact.

Danny Welbeck‘s hard work and endeavour was rewarded soon after as his clever control and flick over the Ukraine defence was blantantly handballed and earned England a penalty, which Frank Lampard typically smashed down the middle.

It was a good nights work for both Manchester United‘s youngsters who, despite not impressing everyone, were certainly heavily involved in many things good for England.

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