By Daniel Cheater
Wayne Rooney was sent off as England scraped through to next year’s European Championships with a nervy draw against Montenegro in Podgorica.
Photo used under Creative Commons from DrabikPany
Claims that Rooney was ‘relaxed and calm’ in the wake of his father’s arrest were severely tested as the striker was shown a red card by referee Wolfgang Stark for kicking out at Miodrag Dzudovic in the 73rd minute.
A confident start saw Ashley Young put England ahead after 11 minutes, heading in from Theo Walcott’s pinpoint cross.
Darren Bent then made it 2-0, tapping in from the brilliant Young’s pass after he was put through by Rooney.
Elsad Zverotic pulled one back for Montenegro with the last kick of the first half before a second half siege on England’s goal led to Andrija Delibasic heading in with just stoppage time remaining.
England will be disappointed after failing to capitalise on a handy first half against a poor Montenegro side, but a fractured, lumbering second half compounded the misery following Rooney’s impetuous kick.
They will now have to prepare for the championship in Poland and Ukraine next year in the knowledge that they will be without their talisman for at least the opening game, maybe more depending on the severity of UEFA’s decision.
England started with verve and tenacity against a nervy Montenegro, Scott Parker and Gareth Barry solidifying the midfield, allowing Young and Walcott to bomb forward in support of Rooney and Bent.
England pressed early and their start was rewarded in the 11th minute, the ball played out on the right to the much maligned Walcott, who provided his best cross in an England shirt leaving Young a simple header from two yards out. It was the Young’s fourth England goal, carrying his impressive club form to his country.
Montenegro could not get a grip on the game and England imposed their superiority with a second after 31 minutes.
A rare home attack was denied and the ball broke to Rooney who ran at the opposing defence, a deft pass to his left saw Young through on goal, and with only the keeper to beat he unselfishly squared to Aston Villa striker Bent who was left with a simple tap in.
Bent’s goal signalled a drop in tempo from England, much to the frustration of coach Fabio Capello and as the team coasted to half time, they were punished.
Elsad Zverotic had space in the area after a slow build up and his strike deflected off Gary Cahill, passed the despairing Joe Hart.
That was the last kick of the first half and indicated a complete role reversal when the teams returned for the second half.
England became sloppy, misplacing passes, unable to cope with the new found enthusiasm of the home team.
Montenegro twice tested Hart and there were twice claims for penalty from two blatant dives from the talented Stevan Jovetic.
Then came the madness from Rooney. Frustrated after another loss of possession, he kicked out at Dzudovic, leaving the referee no choice, and seemingly his teammates no chance of holding out for a victory.
With the game running into stoppage time, Dzudovic found space on the right, crossing a high ball in for Delibasic to beat Cahill in the air and leave the home fans in rapture.
A point for Montenegro saw them cement a play off spot, while England qualified for Euro 2012 at the top of the group.
On what should have been cause for celebration, Rooney’s actions leave England anxious, again.