by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (August 11th 2010)
England captain Steven Gerrard said that he had considered quitting after the World Cup, but under-fire manager Fabio Capello had cause to be grateful that he didn’t as the Liverpool skipper salvaged national pride with a second half brace and an injection of quality that had been sadly lacking from a largely forgettable first half.
“Always the same,” Fabio Capello said responding to the suggestion that Gerrard’s performance had saved him from the wrath of the fans. “When we score we are good, when we lose we are nothing. I think it’s not for my reputation, but we need to be together.”
There was no shortage of incident in a much improved second half. With just over an hour an exquisite pass from Ipswich Town’s Tamás Priskin found new skipper Zoltán Gera in space on the left flank. Hungary’s new captain playing his first match for his country since being axed by former coach Erwin Koeman ten moths ago cut into the area and crossed.
Everton defender Phil Jagielka, one of the few England players to impress in a dreadful first half, was unfortunate to divert it past Manchester City’s keeper Joe Hart. However, Michael Dawson slid across and hooked it away. The whole of the ball had not crossed the line. It should not have been given as a goal but assistant referee Fredji Harchay got that one wrong.
England’s new boys were heartily cheered while the World Cup flops were loudly jeered. “I’m happy with the new players,” said England’s manager. “We found something new. It’s very important.”
Wayne Rooney thought he had silenced the critics on three minutes, but Harchay had other ideas, rightly flagging the Manchester United striker for offside. New cap Adam Johnson was presented with the perfect opportunity to open his account but wasted the opportunity provided by Theo Walcott, after an interchange of crisp short passes involving Steven Gerrard and Glenn Johnson as wellcreated the space for Walcott to fashion a good chance. Manchester City’s midfielder blazed well over from 10 yards out.
England created more chances, but lacked cutting edge. As the half hour approached, the Hungarians, who had not won in their last four matches began to gain ambition. Balázs Dzsudzsák was at the heart of their moments before Gergely Rudolf found Gera, whose effort from just outside the box was weak.
It took 33 minutes for England to mount a significant threat. Steven Gerrard’s free-kick from the left -wing curled and dipped viciously, requiring an excellent save from 1860 München goalkeeper Gábor Király at the expense of a corner, which he came and collected with authority. A poor half ended in boos for the hosts and deservedly so.
A New Dawn
The changes were rung in. “The new players, play with good confidence,” Capello said. Bobby Zamora and Ashley Young made their appearance, eager to impress. Gerrard soon got on the end of Young’s fine work, but couldn’t beat the commanding Király. Sándor Egervári made three changes.
The long-term plan was to build a team around last year’s Under-20 team that finished third in Egypt for the World Cup in Brasil in 2014. They lost to eventual champions Ghana. Egervári was their coach, yet only member of that squad – the captain Vladimr Koman – made Egervári’s first team sheet. Why?
“Yes they are good players – the Under-20 group, but you have to remember the effect on international teams,” Egervári said. “We brought two of them. You can’t just put in six; you have to bring them in gradually in the future.” The Ukrainian-born midfielder was developed by Samporia but was loaned to Bari last season. He replaced Dzsudzsák.
Hungary took the lead fortuitously in a manner that is certain to fuel demands for the use of technology. The whole of the ball had not crossed the line, but referee Stéphane Lannoy wrongly gave the goal. “You remember what happened with Lampard at the World Cup,” said Capello. “We have to wait more time to put five referees on the pitch or put a new system.”
Gerrard began and ended England’s best move in the 69th minute. His 25-yard shot gave Király no chance – an excellent response to his critics. Three minutes later his fancy footwork brought England to life. Young found Gerrard near the 6-yard box with plenty to do. Neat close touches bamboozled the defence and Gerrard toe-poked magnificently past Király from just inside it.
Zamora came close to a special moment with a 20-yard effort that brushed the top of the net. Jeered at the start of his night Gerrard was cheered off, given a standing ovation after a Man of the Match performance when he was replaced by Jack Wilshere on 82 minutes.
With two minutes of normal time remaining Gera was through on goal with just Hart to beat, but the Manchester City keeper was equal to the task. Zamora thought he had secured a dream début, but his glancing header was clawed away by the still alert Király.
Meanwhile, Capello brought the England career of David Beckham to an abrupt end, preferring to concentrate on youth. He admitted that he had not informed Becham personally. “I think David knows that he has no future at international level, because we have to change,” said Capello. “I have to change everything. I have to look for new players. I have to look for the future.”
The LA Galaxy midfielder issued a statement that he wanted to fight for his place. The manager may be right – in football terms it’s hard to argue – but the manner that Capello broke the news, especially after his brutal axing of Beckham at Real Madrid only to be forced to backtrack later, did him no favours unlike his captain.