England drop points for first time in Euro 2024 qualifying group

England drop points for first time in Euro 2024 qualifying group as Kyle Walker’s first EVER Three Lions goal cancels out Oleksandr Zinchenko’s opener

  • Manchester City defender Kyle Walker equalised as England drew 1-1 against Ukraine in Wroclaw, Poland  
  • Arsenal star and Ukraine talisman Oleksandr Zinchenko earlier gave the hosts the lead via a counter-attack 
  • Ukraine vs England RECAP: Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions stay six points clear atop their qualifying group

You can argue that England stuttered here in Poland, as they took on Ukraine, that a step backwards was taken from the slick, stylish football played in Qatar and since. You could dissect this performance and ponder why a team comprised of some of the best young players in world football never quite hit their stride.

But that would be almost to miss the point and not just because England’s qualification for Euro 2024 is more or less guaranteed by wins over Italy and Ukraine last season. 

No, it was because to be in Wroclaw, southern Poland on Saturday night, more than three hundred miles from the border where war is a daily act of perseverance, was to be present at a rallying call for a nation holding the line for rules-based democracies in an existential fight.

This was a bravura performance from Ukraine, one greeted with joyous celebration at the final whistle. It was both a moment of escapism and an act of defiance, to be here, playing so well and showing the world the mere fact that Ukraine exists and continues to fight.

This being competitive sport, England would have had no issue with spoiling that mood. Harry Kane would query whether the full four minutes had been played. Yet it would have seemed churlish to win. And in reality, England didn’t deserve that.

The match was played out in front of a good-natured, partisan crowd at the Tarczyński Arena in Wroclaw, south-west Poland

Ukraine talisman Oleksandr Zinchenko (centre) scored the opening goal after 26 minutes following a brilliant counter-attack

Arsenal star and national talisman Zinchenko held his hand to his ear and smiled into the cameras before showing a love heart

There were angry recriminations in the England defence after they allowed the hosts to score with their first shot of the match

As a sense of political theatre, there cannot have been many football matches like it in recent history. 

More than 40,000 Ukrainian exiles packed this stadium, the late-summer evening sun provided appropriate lighting for the glorious colour show of thousands of yellow and blue flags, raised in defiance as the roar of the solemn Ukrainian anthem filled the stadium.

Match Facts: Ukraine 1-1 England in Wroclaw

Ukraine (4-3-3): Bushchan; Konoplia, Zabarnyi, Matviyenko, Mykolenko; Sudakov (Sydorchuk), Stepanenko, Zinchenko (Buyalskyi ); Tsyhankov, Yaremchuk (Dovbyk 65), Mudryk (Nazaryna 90).

Substitutes not used: Trubin, Lunin; Mykhaylichenko, Kryvtsov, Popov, Karavayev, Yarmolenko, Vanat.

Goals: Zinchenko 26. 

Yellow cards: Stepanenko 22, Yaremchuk 42.

Manager: Serhiy Rebrov.

England (4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Guehi, Maguire, Chilwell; Henderson, Rice, Bellingham (Foden 65); Saka (Gallagher 86), Kane, Maddison (Rashford 65).

Substitutes not used: Johnstone, Ramsdale; Trippier, Colwill, Tomori, Dunk, Phillips, Eze, Wilson.

Goals: Walker 41.

Yellow cards: Maddison 34, Maguire 86.

Manager: Gareth Southgate.

Referee: Georgi Kabakov. 

That was nothing compared to the cacophony of noise that greeted any Ukrainian attack. Not that there were many early on, as Ukraine conceded 84 per cent possession to England. 

And yet despite that – for all their domination, England looked ever so ponderous, going this way and that without creating a decent chance – the patriotic fervour was amplified tenfold when Oleksandr Zinchenko opened the scoring.

As the Arsenal player goofed in front of the TV camera, his smile stretched as broad as physically possible, you couldn’t help but recall the angst he has expressed, the displaced guilt of knowing that he is more good to his nation as the superb international ambassador he is, rather than on the front line. This was a moment he deserved.

It seemed banal to analyse it in football terms and yet for England there was much to admonish. Jordan Henderson appeared to allow ample space for the cross field ball to be played to Viktor Tsyhankov. 

James Maddison was absent, meaning Ben Chilwell was left looking foolish, chasing backwards as Tsygankov slipped the ball to Yukhym Konoplia. The full back cut it back and neither Declan Rice, who missed it, nor Harry Maguire and Marc Guehi, who were rooted motionless next to each other, could cut it out. 

To cap it all, no one tracked Zinchenko, who nonetheless finished well. Still, it was a case of put the champagne on ice and cancel the open top bus tour: England think they can win the Euros. Not like that, they can’t.

Rattled, they responded. Kane had spent the half dropping deeper and deeper in search of some time and space on the ball. At times, that can be frustrating, such as when he fed Henderson, who made a hash of the chance, opting to pass, when it needed a natural finisher in that position. But it all came good on 42 minutes. 

Picking the ball up so deep that were but two defenders stationed behind him, Kane surveyed his options and like a latter-day David Beckham, swept a pass of exquisite accuracy into the path of Kyle Walker. 

The full back, who has never previously scored for England before, still had considerable work to do, using his first touch to direct the ball goalwards. Then, with the confidence of an experienced finisher, he gave keeper Bushchan the eyes, feinting to go one way before prodding the ball inside him in the opposite direction. 

It was a sublime goal. And England looked a little more at it come the second half. This was possession with intent rather than the dreary sideway passing of the first half. 

Home fans erupted with joy after Zinchenko found the net against the run of play to put Serhiy Rebrov’s men ahead in Poland

Manchester City defender Kyle Walker (right) scored the equaliser for England just four minutes before half-time in Wroclaw

It was the 33-year-old’s first goal at international level in his 77 caps and he celebrated wildly with a roar and a fist-pump

He was mobbed by team-mates after becoming the second-oldest player to score his first goal for England after Jimmy Moore

A free kick saw Maguire slide in on keeper Bushchan in an attempt to get on the end of a cross but that was the last chance

Dejected England captain Harry Kane showed frustration at the end of the evening but the Three Lions did not deserve to win

Maguire headed over from a well-worked free kick routine and then should have done better when a Maddison corner landed at his feet, Bukayo Saka did his trademark cut inside and then rattled a shot on to the crossbar via a brilliant fingertip save from Bushchan.

Still, on 65 minutes Gareth Southgate withdrew Maddison and Jude Bellingham. The latter had been all honest intent with no real impact. Certainly, this wasn’t the dominant performance Real Madrid fans gave become accustomed to in recent weeks. 

Phil Foden was trusted to play centrally, when usually Southgate prefers him wide and Marcus Rashford came on. Kane was buzzing all round, Declan Rice driving the midfield. Rashford looked dangerous. However, as the half progressed to its finale, the chances waned. 

The scrap ends of a free kick saw Maguire slide in on keeper Bushchan in an attempt to get on the end of a cross from close range on 83 minutes. The maximum excitement came from the standing ovation given Zinchenko when he came off. 

And, of course, the eruption of noise on the final whistle. Ukraine had made their point. And so much more.

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