England’s ‘justice’, Ukraine’s home heartache and ghost goal controversy

When England line up against Ukraine on Saturday for a place in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, Gareth Southgate will be grateful that his side will not have to play in front of a crowd of 48,500 Ukraine fans.

The Three Lions faced a partisan crowd last time they drew Ukraine in the European Championships when they hosted the tournament with Poland in 2012.

Jordan Henderson is the only surviving member from the current squad who was present in Kyiv that day when England beat Ukraine 1-0 on their home turf.

Unlike Euro 2012, this tournament is unique in that UEFA brought to life their idea for a multi-nation tournament with 11 different cities hosting matches all across Europe.

Gareth Southgate takes his England side to the Stadio Olimpico for their quarter-final against Ukraine

Indeed, Southgate’s young squad showed they can deal with the pressure after booking their place in the last eight with an impressive 2-0 win over Germany at Wembley, with goals coming from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.

England will not face the same sort of challenge when they head to the 60,000-seater Stadio Olimpico in Rome, even if there are likely to be more fans hailing from Ukraine than the UK.

But they would do well to reflect on how England coped with the testing conditions that day and use it as some inspiration for their quarter-final tie.

Daunting Donbass

Wayne Rooney scores their England's goal during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012
Wayne Rooney scores their England’s goal during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012

What will the score be for England vs Ukraine in the Euro 2020 quarter-final? Let us known your predictions below.

Having that home support, with around 40,000 fans inside the arena, unquestionably handed England the advantage going into the tie and the supporters carried the team through difficult periods in the game.

And on that day nine years ago, when Ukraine brought along an army of supporters to face England in the final group stage match, it must have been a frightening experience.

Wayne Rooney was chomping at the bit to get his Euro 2020 underway after serving his two match ban for getting sent off against Montenegro eight months prior.

One memorable aspect of Rooney’s return was the fact he shared his pre-match ‘get psyched’ mix, with a blend of Arctic Monkeys, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. But with this kind of atmosphere, he probably didn’t need it.

The crowd was raucous. The tension had been building for hours before kick-off and much like any fixture in eastern Europe, it was hostile and deafening.

England had only required a point to seal their progress after beating Sweden 3-2 in the previous match and would top the group with a victory. But Ukraine could still qualify, needing to win to send England out of the tournament. That was their motivation.

For the majority of the opening 20 minutes, the home side were buoyed by the phenomenal noise from all four quarters of the arena. If there were England fans present, their voices were instantly drowned out whenever they began a song.

Yevhen Konoplyanka was a threat for Ukraine from long range
Yevhen Konoplyanka was a threat for Ukraine from long range

They did not relent either when Yehven Konoplyanka and Oleg Husyev went close with long-range efforts as the tournament hosts capitalised on a nervy start from England.

Wayne Rooney missed a simple header at the far post, heading wide of Andriy Pyatov’s goal and up the other end, Andriy Yarmolenko went through his typical routine of cutting in on his favoured left foot but struck at Joe Hart.

Despite a lively first half of action there were no goals to separate the sides. As it stood, a point would be enough to send England through to the last-16 knockout rounds.

But Ukraine needed that one goal to qualify and the jeopardy was very real. They were not just up for it, they were covering every blade of grass inside the Donbass Arena.

Just three minutes after the interval, England capitalised on some shoddy defending at the near post from Yehven Khacheridi, which then put off Pyatov, and Rooney ghosted in at the far post to head home into an empty net.

That goal silenced the crowd all for about five minutes. It was inevitable that Ukraine, playing in one of the biggest matches in their history, would not go down quietly in front of their passionate fanbase.

Ghost goal controversy

Ukraine's Marko Devic was denied despite his goal appearing to cross the line
Ukraine’s Marko Devic was denied despite his goal appearing to cross the line

Artem Milevsky continued to pose a threat without delivering, somehow glancing his header from Konoplyanka’s dangerous cross over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

Although he was in an offside position, it pointed to some frailties that could be exposed in England’s backline. They had struggled to take control of the game and dictate the tempo and were often caught too high up the pitch.

Ukraine exploited that again on the hour mark with a long ball over the top to Milevsky, who set up Marko Devic superbly and the Dynamo Kyiv striker turned Terry inside out.

The Chelsea defender managed to get a block in but the ball took a wicked deflection and looped over Joe Hart, forcing the centre-back to desperately hook the ball off the line.

Did it cross the line? Ukraine were livid, convinced it was a certain goal. Perhaps England were too.

John Terry clears an effort from Marko Devic off the line
John Terry clears an effort from Marko Devic off the line

The intrigue was understandable for those in the stadium and the England fans at home, who may have had a sudden flashback to two years earlier in Bloemfontein at the 2010 World Cup.

Back then, England were controversially denied a clear goal after Frank Lampard’s chipped effort appeared to cross the line against Germany in the quarter-finals.

But with no goal-line technology, it was solely up the officials to decide and, as history would have it, the goal was never given.

England’s justice

Ukraine appeal to the officials after Marko Devic's effort appeared to cross the line
Ukraine appeal to the officials after Marko Devic’s effort appeared to cross the line

Now it was England’s turn to swallow a slice of good fortune, as replays showed Devic’s effort had crossed the line while suspended in mid-air. Ukraine’s protests to referee Viktor Kassai fell on deaf ears and England survived a nervy ending.

Analysis after the match did in fact show Milevsky was offside in the build-up, although it remains to be seen whether the officials had seen that part of the move. If not, England, once again, would have been the ones left feeling aggrieved.

Roy Hodgson sympathised with the difficulty the officials had in making a decision and suggested that The Three Lions had only received their dosage of karma after the events in South Africa.

“We don’t have goal-line technology and, even with slow motion, people can’t be 100 per cent certain,” said Hodgson.

Roy Hodgson was relieved to see England's luck change
Roy Hodgson was relieved to see England’s luck change

“We’ve suffered pretty much bad luck in those areas in the past so if it was good luck today then we got it.”

Nine years later and the debate of technology in football is not whether it should be used, but how it should be utilised. The application of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been hugely controversial but at Euro 2020, it has been mostly effective in helping make crucial decisions.

Southgate will be praying that VAR does not affect his side’s fortunes in the quarter-final. But if there is another ‘ghost goal’, England won’t be able to rely on luck this time around.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button