England will face Italy in the quarter-finals after defeating Ukraine at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, but have the match officials to thank for a missed goal.
Co-hosts Ukraine were chasing a win going into this final Group D encounter so as to remain in the competition, whilst England knew that a draw or better would guarantee their passage to the quarter-finals. There was also the chance pre-kick-off that a Ukraine win would have seen both teams progress, depending upon the outcome of the other match between France and Sweden.
A less-than-100 per cent Andriy Shevchenko was the most notable of four changes Ukraine made for this game, whilst Roy Hodgson welcomed Wayne Rooney back for Andy Carroll in an otherwise unchanged England XI.
Denys Garmesh had the first sight of goal in the opening exchanges, but his long-range effort was speculative and drifted high over Joe Hart’s goal.
The co-hosts had most of the early attacking but were restricted to long-range efforts by a deep-lying English defence. Yevhen Konoplyanka did well to open space for an effort from 25 yards but saw it blocked by John Terry in the penalty area.
Gusev was the next one to try his luck from afar, running on to a misjudged ball by Ashley Young before firing just over Hart’s crossbar.
England threatened at the other end from a Steven Gerrard cross that saw Wayne Rooney inches away from making contact, before Andriy Pyatov knocked it behind for a corner.
Rooney then had the first clear chance of the night midway through the first half, but pulled his header in front of the goal from a Young cross two yards wide of the post.
The game briefly opened up and Ukraine had their first foray into England’s area, with Andriy Yarmolenko drawing a save from Hart after cutting into the area on to his left foot and releasing a low effort on target.
The left-footed winger then excited the crowd just before half time with a weaving run into the penalty box, but despite beating three men, he didn’t release the ball soon enough and could only earn a corner for his efforts.
As things stood at the break, Ukraine sat in third in the group and England were second.
The first attack of the second half provided the breakthrough, when a drilled cross from Gerrard found its way through Pyatov’s hands to Rooney at the back post, and the Manchester United man headed it into the empty net to mark his return to the team with a goal.
Ukraine responded with a period of pressure that resulted in a number of corners that tested the English defence. However, from one of these, England almost scored at the other end, with Gerrard putting Rooney clear through on goal, only for the striker to be caught up by Yarmolenko, who was tugging his shirt. Rooney’s cut-back to James Milner saw the Manchester City man pull his shot off target.
Ukraine had their best chance of the game so far on the hour mark when Artem Milevskiy headed over from point-blank range after a cross found him unmarked in the England box from a corner.
Terry then appeared to prevent a certain Ukraine equaliser a minute later by clearing a goal-bound effort from Konoplyanka. The co-hosts appealed that they had scored, but the officials waved play on, indicating that the ball had not crossed the line, as England threatened from the counter. However, replays highlighted that the ball had crossed the line.
Ashley Cole went close to a second for England when he swiped at a rebound from Pyatov’s original flap at a Gerrard cross, but the Ukrainian knocked his shot out for a corner.
Hart was called into action to knock away a dipping effort from Konoplyanka that Joleon Lescott did well to clear the rebound from before anyone else got there.
Ukraine 0-1 England
Scorers: Rooney 48 (E)
Ukraine: Pyatov; Gusev, Rakitskiy, Khacheridi, Selin; Yarmolenko, Tymoshchuk, Garmesh (Nazarenko 78), Konoplyanka; Devic (Shevchenko 70), Milevskiy (Butko 77)
England: Hart; Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole; Milner (Walcott 69), Gerrard, Parker, Young; Rooney (Oxlade-Chamberlain 87), Welbeck (Carroll 82)
Ref: Kassai (Hungary)
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