England comeback only good for draw

England’s wretched defending gifted Switzerland a 2-2 draw in their 2012 European Championship qualifier on Saturday.

Tranquillo Barnetta scored a rapid first-half double. His first free kick curled over Rio Ferdinand and bounced before wrongfooting goalkeeper Joe Hart after 32 minutes. A second free kick three minutes later went through England’s defensive wall and beat Hart at his near post.

Frank Lampard pulled one back from the penalty spot for England in the 37th minute and substitute Ashley Young leveled with a powerful strike six minutes into the second half.

”I was disappointed for the goals that they scored, not for the first one but for the second because the wall needed to stay tight and not move,” Capello said. ”The Switzerland players were fresher, they have had a different season. We suffered because we arrived without energy.”

Darren Bent squandered two chances to claim a winner for England, which was missing suspended striker Wayne Rooney.

England remains top of Group G ahead of second-place Montenegro on goal difference. Montenegro drew 1-1 with Bulgaria at home.

Switzerland is third with five points, six adrift of the leaders.

”If you can beat the world champions, it is not tough (against England),” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said, referring to last year’s World Cup win over Spain. ”To draw in the home of football is very good, but we don’t want to overestimate it. We have to go on … we have nicely developed in the midfield and we had a lot of pace.”

With three games to go and only the top team guaranteed a spot at Euro 2012, the dropped points mean it is far from certain that England will qualify.

The draw reminded Capello of his team’s shortcomings a year after England’s bleak World Cup campaign, which led to several changes of personnel in the squad.

Despite a vibrant win in their previous qualifier, against Wales in March, Capello made three changes from the side that won 2-0 in Cardiff.

Rooney was replaced by Theo Walcott and Rio Ferdinand returned from injury to partner captain John Terry in central defense.

The surprise was Capello’s decision to drop Young in favor of James Milner on the left flank. He introduced the Aston Villa winger only at halftime, in place of Lampard, but believes he is a more potent attacking force from central midfield.

Lampard was sacrificed after struggling in the midfield axis with Jack Wilshere and Scott Parker.

”I needed one player to attack the space and one player faster,” Capello said. ”The first half we played a lot of short passes and did not go through to the goal. It was a tactical decision absolutely (replacing Lampard).”

The match came alive in a five-minute spell after Johnson conceded a free kick. Barnetta’s free kick was able to float over Ferdinand and the ball bounced between Granit Xhaka and Johan Djourou before going into Hart’s net.

England’s disorganized defense had little time to recover before Hart committed a glaring error at the end of a season when he had established himself as the first-choice keeper for both Manchester City and England.

As the free kick delivered from the left flank pierced England’s two-man wall of Walcott and Milner before bouncing inside Hart’s near post, his boot helped the ball over the line.

There was a lifeline for England a minute later when Djourou brought down Wilshere and Lampard scored from the spot.

”In the second half we played not so bad,” Capello said.

Walcott had a penalty appeal dismissed at the start of the second half before Young leveled, drilling the ball into the bottom right corner after another substitute, Leighton Baines, chested the ball into his path.

The first of Bent’s two wasted chances to claim a winner came in the 65th minute, when Wilshere released him with a precise through-ball only to hesitate and see the ball blocked by Benaglio.

Six minutes later, when Benaglio parried another strike from Young, Bent’s first-time connection sent the rebound over the crossbar when he could have reacted more calmly with the goal at his mercy.

England has now drawn three of its last four matches at Wembley and lost the other.


England: Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole (Leighton Baines, 30), Scott Parker, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Theo Walcott (Stewart Downing, 78), Frank Lampard (Ashley Young, 46), Darren Bent, Jack Wilshere, James Milner.

Switzerland: Diego Benaglio, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Reto Ziegler, Philippe Senderos, Tranquillo Barnetta (Innocent Emeghara,89), Gokhan Inler, Eren Derdiyok (Admir Mehmedi, 75), Valon Behrami (Blerim Dzemaili, 59), Granit Xhaka, Johan Djourou, Xherdan Shaqiri.