International Football – Defoe brace saves England
A second-half brace from Jermaine Defoe saw England come back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with the Netherlands in Amsterdam.
Defoe struck three minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute and levelled on 76 minutes as Fabio Capello’s side overcame a shocking defensive display in the opening 45 minutes.
Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry played woeful back-passes to gift goals to Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van der Vaart as England’s back four made repeated lapses of concentration that were not eradicated even in the second half.
While Capello may be concerned at his side’s defending he will be delighted at the effect of his substitutes, who hinted that there is some quality to England’s squad depth.
Defoe turned in a man-of-the-match performance, James Milner got one assist and terrorised the hosts in his cameo while Carlton Cole and Michael Carrick were impressive in their second-half appearances.
The visitors had started promisingly but, with 10 minutes gone, Manchester United defender Ferdinand committed one of his seasonal gaffes by failing to look when making a pass that Kuyt latched on to before rounding Robert Green and firing in off John Terry on the line.
It was a terrible error from one of England’s most consistent performers and his static response to the realisation he had played Green a hospital ball implied a lack of mental sharpness in pre-season, something Capello pointed to in his post-match interview.
Barry’s howler 27 minutes later gifted the Dutch a second and added weight to that theory.
Between the goals England had most of the possession and looked particularly impressive from wide positions, thanks in no part to the evergreen David Beckham‘s persistence and Aston Villa winger Ashley Young‘s dribbling ability.
England had a penalty appeal turned down when Barry’s back-heel was handled by Nigel de Jong but the referee waved the appeals away.
A good spell from the Dutch around the half-hour mark saw Green again called into action to deny Kuyt and Arjen Robben after a Robin van Persie free-kick and a lapse in concentration by Johnson, while Van Persie drilled just wide after a cheeky back-heel allowed him a one-two with Kuyt.
That spell was rounded off with a goal thanks to Barry’s error.
Sold slightly short by Ferdinand, the new Manchester City midfielder hesitated before blindly playing the ball back to Green.
His failure to look up meant he missed Robben lurking on the edge of the box, and while Green did exceptionally well to save the Real Madrid winger’s finish, he was helpless to stop Robben’s club team-mate Van der Vaart rattle the loose ball home.
Despite a volley from Rooney that flashed just wide, the Netherlands were good value for the lead if only as punishment for England’s sloppiness.
The second-half saw the ineffectual Heskey withdrawn for Defoe and the Tottenham Hotspur striker almost made an immediate impact.
His pace caused Ooijer and Joris Mathijsen problems as, from the kick off, he linked up well with Rooney on the edge of the box.
Three minutes Defoe and England were off the mark after Green’s long punt saw Rooney and Lampard combine on halfway to allow the ex-West Ham and Portsmouth striker to race clear of the home defence and angle a left-foot finish off in the inside of the post for 2-1.
But England continued to make mistakes with Johnson fortunate not to pay the price after a poor back-pass, while skipper Terry was saved by a poor Kuyt pass after he over-committed on a straightforward interception.
They soon got themselves back on track, though, and dominated the last 35 minutes.
Defoe did well on the right again but his cross-shot just evaded Rooney, and he headed a cross from debutant substitute James Milner inches over the bar.
Carlton Cole came on for Rooney just before the hour mark and deserved a first England goal but saw his volley flash just wide after some excellent ball-juggling on the edge of the box.
England got a deserved equaliser thanks to some excellent play from Milner, who raced away from Ooijer and pinged in a low left-wing cross that Defoe prodded home after a clever, disguised diagonal run off the two centre-halves.
The visitors were on fire and bossed possession in the closing stages. Carlton Cole headed a Lampard corner just wide as England rained down with set pieces and aerial balls, while Milner’s direct running and Shaun Wright-Phillips‘s enthusiasm contributing to flagging Dutch legs.
There was a brief scare for England when Johnson hacked Ryan Babel down on the edge of the box, but Terry blocked Weslet Snjeider’s free-kick and England held out for a draw that answered and raised big questions ahead of the season.
Reda Maher / Eurosport