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Montenegro vs England: Five talking points

Roy Hodgson’s England were denied in their quest to leapfrog Montenegro at the top of the table in group H of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers when they were held to a 1 – 1 draw. An early goal from Wayne Rooney set off his team’s dominance in the first half, which was reversed by the hosts in the second, earning them a fairly deserved point. It was a game of two entirely different halves which threw up a fair few talking points.

The United connection

Montenegro v England - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney were all in the starting lineup for Roy Hodgson’s side, forming its spine. Quite remarkably, all of these players play for Manchester United and were later joined by their counterpart, Ashley Young. It appears that Sir Alex’s charges have some influential fans in the England camp, Gary Neville being the main suspect. After all, when 6 out of 11 players on the pitch belong to a single club, no matter how great the club might be, one wonders if there’s more than just skill behind their selection. Just ask Rickie Lambert, for one.

The off-colour Montenegro defence

Under the managerial reign of Branko Brnovic, the Montenegro defence has usually been a compact, solid unit; one which had kept clean sheets in each of its last four fixtures. Against England, however, playing in front of their home fans, they failed to show up for the entirety of the first half. Entirely opposite to what the Russians did against Brazil the night before, Montenegro got pulled out of shape ever so often, allowing the English attackers to dictate the course of the game. They were also guilty of backing off far too much, often deep into their own box, and inviting pressure from the opposition. They must consider themselves lucky for having conceded only once.

Rooney’s redemption

Memories of that red card which Rooney received a year ago, which completely changed the course of a similar fixture, are yet to fade from the minds of English fans. Rooney himself, one thinks, will find it hard to erase from memory. Yet, the English front-man put up a thoroughly professional performance last night, dominating play in the first half and holding his team together in the second. A well-deserved goal early in the game rounded off a good personal outing for Rooney, with a delicate lob unfortunately coming back off the post prior to that.

Who is Dejan Damjanovic?
PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO - MARCH 26:  Dejan Damjanovic of Montenegro scores the equalising goal during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Group H match between Montenegro and England at City Stadium

PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO – MARCH 26: Dejan Damjanovic of Montenegro scores the equalising goal during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Group H match between Montenegro and England at City Stadium

What England did to Montenegro in the first half, Montenegro did to them in the second. Right at the start of the half, one man, Damjanovic, was sent on to rescue the game for his side, and he did so in style. Not only did he score the equalizer for his side, but also made Vucinic and Jovetic ten-fold more effective than they were in the first half. For those wondering who this man is, Damjanovic is the hottest property in the K-league, playing for FC Seoul with whom he won the championship and the Golden Boot last season, as well as the title of K-League’s MVP. He is also the highest scorer for a foreign player in the K-League and a highly valued asset to FC Seoul, for whom he has been playing since 2008.

How sorely will Rio Ferdinand be missed?

When the Montenegrin attack finally gathered pace, the English defence did its best to stand up to the assault; but as it turned out, it wasn’t enough to stop the opposition from scoring. With Joleon Lescott and Chris Smalling playing as centre-backs, both of whom are individually less experienced on the international scene than Joe Hart, Jovetic had a field day, with plenty of chances falling his way. While wasteful finishing from the Fiorentina striker may have let England off the hook, the lack of someone like Rio Ferdinand to marshal the defence is likely to haunt the Three Lions in the near future.

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