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England held to a 1-1 draw by gritty Montenegro

PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO - MARCH 26:  Wayne Rooney of England scores the opening goal with a header during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Group H match between Montenegro and England at City Stadium

PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO – MARCH 26: Wayne Rooney of England scores the opening goal with a header during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Group H match between Montenegro and England at City Stadium

Montenegro kept their two-point lead at the top of Group H in the race for World Cup qualification with a 1–1 draw against England. It was a happy return to action against the Montenegrins for Wayne Rooney, who opened the scoring in the 6th minute, but overall a fairly grim one for Roy Hodgson’s England, who managed to take away only one point after Dejan Damjanovic’s equaliser for the home side.

As early as in the 2nd minute, Wayne Rooney nearly scored for the fifth straight time in an international fixture with a delightful chip which, unfortunately for him, came back off the post. Bozovic, the Montenegro ‘keeper, was caught in two minds, coming forward to try and intercept a pass, watching helplessly as the ball sailed over him and dipped under the cross bar level but drifted too wide and hit the post.

England had spoken about how they were here to win, and they reasserted their claim on the pitch with some real pressure. A strong effort from Glen Johnson was pushed over the bar by Bozovic and from the corner that followed, there was no denying Rooney. A perfect delivery from Steven Gerrard was met by an unmarked Rooney after his marker had hit the ground thanks to some poor positioning to start with. The rest was as easy as stealing candy from a baby for Rooney, and his header hit the back of the net, giving England the lead in the 6th minute.

It had taken the Three Lions just six minutes to get past a Montenegro defence which had kept a clean sheet in each of its last four games. They looked like scoring even more with Welbeck just inches away from tapping in a header after a clever cross from Rooney, and Rooney himself shooting wide after a fierce ball across the face of goal by Milner. There was no real sign of resistance from the home side either as they went in trailing at half time without having tested Joe Hart even once.

Dejan Damjanovic came in at the beginning of the second half for the group leaders, and the striker’s effect was felt immediately. With him, Jovetic and Vucinic all up front for Montenegro, the English defence had their first real scare of the game when a header floated all the way across the box and was headed against the outside of the side netting by Jovetic.

Damjanovic himself had a swivelling shot blocked away by the English defence, with the loose ball being played back into the box to Jovetic, whose effort with the weaker foot went tamely wide. It was an all Montenegro show that continued in the second half, with wasteful finishing standing between them and an equaliser. A 2-on-1 situation on the counter attack was thrown away by Jovetic with an attempt to chip Joe Hart from far out. The English ‘keeper nearly gifted the home side an equaliser by spilling an effort from Vucinic which was straight at him, before gratefully gathering the ball as it bounced goal-wards after striking his leg.

There was more poor decision-making to follow for Montenegro, with Vucinic shooting narrowly wide from outside the box in spite of Damjanovic being completely unmarked to his left. A few minutes later, it was Montenegro’s turn to hit the bar after a corner caught the English defence out; but from the corner that followed, Damjanovic finally scored. Montenegro’s equaliser came after a real scramble in the box, which was set off by Damjanovic’s header being expertly saved by Joe Hart before bobbling around in the area and being rolled home by the second half substitute.

PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO - MARCH 26:  (L-R)Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick of England look dejected during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Group H match between Montenegro and England at City Stadium

PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO – MARCH 26: (L-R)Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick of England look dejected during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Group H match between Montenegro and England at City Stadium

The rest of the game saw Bozovic make one decent save off a Steven Gerrard volley which was straight at him, and another off a free kick towards the top right corner. 1 – 1 then, a justified scoreline for a game of two entirely opposite halves.

Result: Montenegro (Dejan Damjanovic 76’) 1 – 1 England (Wayne Rooney 6’)

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