Tuesday, 29 March 2011

How To Draw 1-1 And Still Be Entertaining

England 1 - 1 Ghana

Ghana earned a very deserved point at Wembley this evening thanks to a 90th minute strike from Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan.

Compared to so many of the friendlies England have played in in recent years this was a highly contested encounter with plenty of chances for either side, aided by some suspect defending by both defences.

The stars of the game were undoubtedly the Villa connection for England in Downing and Young, while Gyan's enthusiasm and hard work definitely merited the goal he eventually scored.

England attacked from the outset, the midfield three of Milner, Barry and Wilshere looking to play Young and Downing in behind the Ghanaian defence at every opportunity. However for most of the first half the crosses once they found those positions were frustratingly poor. In the 23rd minute Young managed to get on the end of a Milner cross, only to somehow manage to scoop the ball onto the bar when, to quote a cliché, it looked easier to score.

Ghana looked dangerous on the counter attack throughout, making up for a marginal lack in quality with a level of pace and enthusiasm that was highly enviable. Twice Adiyah forced Hart into impressive reflex saves.

England eventually took the lead in the 42nd minute, a quality finish into the far bottom corner from Carroll after Young and Downing combined to set him up.

Overall the first half was actually one of the most exciting 45 minutes i've seen in an England friendly for a long time. They played some of the most entertaining football they've managed under Capello, very quick flowing and with the 5 midfielders providing plenty of movement and passing.

However the 2nd half failed to live up to the promise of the first. All the fluency in the passing football seemingly abandoned England, suddenly they struggled to maintain any real pressure on Ghana and this only served to give them inspiration to push on and they threatened an equaliser throughout.

The half became scrappy and the play was broken up repeatedly by several rash challenges from both sides that in a competitive match may have seen several players receiving a yellow card, and one or two (Ayew and Baines) could have even got a red card.

In the 56th minute a corner for Ghana bounced around the England box for several moments before a shot was eventually deflected over. That should have served as a warning but England failed to close out the game and when Gyan turned Lescott inside out and curled the ball into the far corner you'd be hard pushed to argue they didn't deserve it.

Even if you could argue on the basis of the match that they didn't deserve the win, the celebrations that followed the goal meant that i felt hard pressed to be all that annoyed about the turn of events. As the thousands of Ghanaian fans danced and sang in celebration i found my affection for their country grow even more. Those are fans who watch football simply to enjoy the match and the atmosphere, passionately supporting their team with a refreshing lack of animosity or aggression.

England can learn quite a few lessons from this evenings game. Firstly that a more attacking and free flowing formation can suit England and could give us a vague chance of performing at Euro 2012. Secondly that Ghana are one of the strongest teams in Africa currently, even without Essien. Finally that Young, Wilshere and Cahill should be in or around whatever squad we take to Poland & the Ukraine.

Now to finish the blog is a song that was the first one i listened to today as i was walking to my first lecture of the day.

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