Late Lampard penalty earns England a draw

England had to rely on Frank Lampard’s late equaliser from the penalty spot to claim a 1-1 draw against Ukraine at Wembley.

Roy Hodgson’s first competitive home game in charge of the Three Lions looked like ending in defeat after a wonderful curling effort from the impressive Yevhen Konoplyanka gave the visitors the lead just before the interval.

England had their chances in the first half with Tom Cleverley seeing a shot saved from point-blank range and Jermain Defoe harshly having an individual effort ruled out for a foul.

But after the break it looked as though the goal would not come until substitute Danny Welbeck deceived Yevhen Khacheridi to induce a handball and Lampard fired home in the 87th minute.

Any thoughts of pushing recklessly for the winner were hampered by the constant threat of Ukraine on the counter-attack.

And when Steven Gerrard was sent off for a second yellow card after a lunging foul they were forced to settle for a draw.

It became clear early on that this was going to be a far tougher encounter than the 5-0 thrashing of Moldova on Friday.

Only three minutes had elapsed when Oleg Gusev’s cross flicked off Leighton Baines, dipped over Joe Hart and clipped the outside of a post.

Joleon Lescott cleared another Gusev cross, then Roman Zozulya failed to capitalise on Konoplyanka’s neat approach work.

During those dodgy opening minutes, England’s passing was awful, costing them a chance to build up any momentum.

Five-goal winners in Moldova on Friday, third-ranked team in the world, any sense of superiority was shaken out of England by spirited opponents.

Andriy Shevchenko’s retirement, far from weakening the team, created a greater bond, which new skipper Anatoliy Tymoschuk marshalled around the field in impressive fashion.

It might have been different had Defoe’s thunderous effort not been ruled out.

Defoe’s disbelief was obvious. Yet it was also beyond doubt he had shoved a textbook rugby hand-off into the neck of Andriy Yarmolenko, who made the most of it.

Gerrard was trying to inspire, like a good captain should.

Clearing a goalbound Ruslan Rotan effort at one end, driving a pass through for Defoe at the other, the striker’s flick almost releasing James Milner.

It was the prelude to Cleverley’s succession of glaring misses.

Defoe showed admirable unselfishness when he opted to steer Gerrard’s cross back into the six-yard box rather than go for goal himself from an acute angle.

Cleverley raced in, looking certain to gobble up the chance with only Andrei Pyatov to beat.

Unfortunately, the Manchester United man fired straight at the Ukraine goalkeeper, whose reactions were up to the task.

Cleverley then flicked Lampard’s pass well wide from a good position, before, as if underlining the folly of Hodgson’s comparison with Cesc Fabregas, lifting the ball against the outside of a post from Milner’s pass.

Amid the personal anguish, Ukraine had seized the initiative.

After Denys Garmash had let England off the hook by heading over when he crept into space to meet Yevgen Selin’s cross, Konoplyanka showed them no mercy.

Stepping inside Gerrard, the highly-rated midfielder sent a 25-yard effort curling over Hart and into the top corner.

In a second-half littered with yellow cards – six of them for England including Gerrard’s double caution – Leighton Baines needed to make a timely intervention to prevent Zozulya reaching Konoplyanka’s cross.

Glen Johnson, among those to get booked after the break, went close at the other end but the introductions of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge were inevitable given how the game was panning out.

The decision to replace Baines with Ryan Bertrand was less obvious, especially as young duo Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana both offered more attacking invention from the bench for all their inexperience.

Welbeck almost profited from Sturridge’s cross nine minutes from time, but prodded against a post.

Redemption came shortly afterwards, with Lampard converting from the spot, just as he did in Chisinau on Friday.

But the outcome will fool no one, least of all Hodgson, into thinking that England really do deserve to be rated as highly as FIFA suggest.