England don't like making things easy, do they? After giving Moldova an absolute thumping in the first match of their 2014 World Cup qualification run, the Three Lions put in a poor performance against Ukraine -- at Wembley Stadium , no less -- and were very nearly made to pay the price.
Yes, they were the better side, and spurned chance after chance to score. Yes, the match would have been very different had Jermain Defoe's early goal been allowed to stand rather than being called back for some imaginary foul, or if Tom Cleverley had put away one of his many chances, or if Evgeni Konoplienka hadn't capped his burst around Steven Gerrard in the 39th minute with a sublime finish that fizzed over the defence's collected heads and straight into Joe Hart's top corner.
But all of those things happened and England found themselves down 1-0 at halftime. Then at the hour mark. Then with fifteen minutes to go, then ten. This was a match that the hosts couldn't afford to lose. You can't drop points at home against even the stronger teams in your group and have much hope of qualifying. Fortunately for England, some good substitutions paid off.
Daniel Welbeck had already hit the post (from a cross played in by fellow substitute Daniel Sturridge) by the time he secured England's lifeline, earning a penalty when Yevgen Khacheridi's outstretched arm batted down the ball as the Manchester United strike controlled Ryan Bertrand's volleyed pass. It was up to Frank Lampard to tie the match, and the veteran midfielder slotted home with aplomb.
It was enough to rescue the point, but not England's dignity, the remaining shards of which were wiped off the pitch by Steven Gerrard's dismissal, with the skipper going through the back of Denys Garmash within seconds of Lampard's spot kick finding the back of the net. The Liverpool man, who was lucky to be on the pitch after elbowing Ruslan Rotan in the face in the 54th minute, trudged off in disgrace. The rest of the team followed him shortly thereafter.