English players accentuate the positive


Soccer:Joleon Lescott was confident England have got their “toughest” World Cup qualifier out the way after Frank Lampard spared his side’s blushes in their 1-1 draw against Ukraine.

Roy Hodgson’s men were heading for a severely damaging Wembley defeat last night when Lescott needlessly gave the ball away in the build-up to Yevgen Konoplianka’s goal. But Lampard’s penalty three minutes from time salvaged what Lescott and his team-mates admitted could be a crucial point.

England had been top of Group H after thrashing Moldova on Friday and a loss would have seen them slump to fourth, behind Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro. With trips to all three to come, that would have arguably left them with a real uphill battle to qualify.

They did slip to second place on goal difference last night but Manchester City star Lescott claimed a draw was not a bad result against a side that were unlucky to lose to England at the European Championship.

“It was our toughest game, I felt, in the Euros, and they showed again what a good team they are,” he said. “There are no easy games in the group but we felt that we probably got our toughest one out of the way. They’re a good team and our biggest threat in the group also.”

Unlike in Kiev in the summer, England did not enjoy the rub of the green last night, seeing a goal disallowed and several other chances go begging and Lescott admitted he began to think it was not going to be their night. “It was starting to get that way.

“But the players we’ve got and the determination we showed, we’re always going to create chances and, luckily for us, we got a penalty and Frank put it away. I’m sure that the manager and the fans expect nothing less from us.

“We’re a determined bunch of lads and we thought we could’ve scored early on and obviously go on and get a victory but it just wasn’t to be.”

City team-mate James Milner insisted England felt hard done by after some controversial refereeing decisions. “We had a few chances and one or two strange decisions in there as well. Lamps has stuck the penalty away fantastically but I think we hit the woodwork a couple of times and a couple of other penalty shouts.

“We’ve got to take the positives out as well, look where we can improve, but we kept going to the end and kept trying to do the right things. Many teams might’ve thought, ‘It’s not our night’, after the chances we had. It didn’t quite go our way but we just kept going and got the goal in the end.”

Defender Glen Johnson said: “It’s definitely a point gained. Four points out of the two games is a good start, so we’ll try to progress from here and keep going.”

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