Young spares England's blushes

Ashley Young came off the bench to earn a 2-2 draw for England in their Euro 2012 qualifier with Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday.

Last Updated: 04/06/11 at 22:02 Post Comment

Young: Celebrates his stunning equaliser

Young: Celebrates his stunning equaliser

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On the day Wayne Rooney told the world he had been given a hair transplant, Fabio Capello was left tearing his out as England dropped two precious points in their bid to reach next summer's European Championship finals.

Switzerland profited from a pair of inexplicable errors from the normally solid Joe Hart to establish a two-goal cushion.

Although England rallied through a Frank Lampard penalty and a superb second-half effort from Young, who had replaced the Chelsea man at half-time, the hosts could not force home a third.

Darren Bent blew their best chance when he blasted over with the goal at his mercy and Stewart Downing also wasted a glorious opportunity right at the death.

But a year after their World Cup misery, England extended a winless streak on home soil to four matches for the first time in 30 years, Admir Mehmedi coming far too close for comfort to snatching all three points for the visitors in stoppage time.

It meant a loss of initiative in Group G and what now seems certain to be a tense fight with Montenegro, who host England in Podgorica on October 7.

With far too many fans still outside when the game started, England began with a wobble.

Switzerland had already served notice that the injection of youth by coach Ottmar Hitzfeld made them a far more potent outfit than they have been for some years.

Even whilst they were beating eventual winners Spain in their opening World Cup match last summer, their strategy was largely a defensive one.

By the time they were blitzed by England in Basle last September, they had reached the end of their shelf life. It appeared England had not been monitoring their opponents because after a bright start, they were pulled apart far too easily.

Hart denied Gokhan Inler, Eren Derdiyok fired over, then Xherdan Shaqiri sent a curling effort towards the far corner which England's hitherto confident and undisputed number one goalkeeper kept out with a smart save.

It took an excellent Ashley Cole tackle to block Valon Behrami's route to goal, and England could easily have been behind before the twin aberration that left them in huge trouble.

There appeared no obvious danger when Barnetta floated his first free-kick to the far post.

As Rio Ferdinand went for it, Hart remained rooted to the spot. By the time Ferdinand had failed to make contact, his movement was too late and the ball crept in at the far post.

When asked about the potential for making mistakes earlier this week, Hart said he accepted it as part of the job. He might not be so reflective about such matters now, given he was also culpable for Switzerland's second.

Hart could justifiably argue that England would not have conceded had Theo Walcott and James Milner done their jobs and remained static and together in a two-man wall.

Once they split, Barnetta had a huge hole to drive his shot through. Hart paid the ultimate price for not stationing anyone on the near post, only able to stick out a foot to help the ball over the line in his desperation to reach it.

England instantly halved the deficit thanks to Johan Djourou's ill-advised lunge on Arsenal team-mate Jack Wilshere.

There was more conviction about the penalty award than Lampard's spot-kick. It still found its way in though, under the body of Diego Benaglio.

Hart delivered a few angry comments towards a cameraman who got rather too close after the half-time whistle had gone.

When England returned, they did so without Lampard.

The introduction of Young did not require the validation of his equaliser. However, that Lampard was the man to make way represented a bold move on Capello's behalf, and one that could be a pointer to the Chelsea man's 86-cap England career given Steven Gerrard will eventually return from injury.

Young's impact was quick and brilliant. Profiting from assistance by Milner and Leighton Baines, who had replaced an injured Cole, the winger many expect to join Manchester United this summer found the bottom corner with a precise shot.

It mirrored the goalscoring order from that awful night against Croatia that spawned all those "Wally with the Brolly" gags.

England lost on that occasion. This time they fancied their chances of ending up on the winning side.

After Wilshere had been booked for a lunge on Barnetta, Young forced a save out of Benaglio with a powerful shot.

The rebound rolled invitingly to Bent. But with only the goalkeeper to beat, he blasted over.

Young then clipped a first-time effort over after Milner had outsmarted Djourou by the touchline.

England could get no closer. A year on from South Africa, Capello's anniversary was no cause for celebration.

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