England lackluster performance in Euro 2012 Qualifier

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England fought back to snatch a 2-2 draw in their Euro 2012 qualifier with Switzerland here Saturday after two goalkeeping errors from Joe Hart threatened to send Fabio Capello’s side spinning to defeat.

A Frank Lampard penalty and a second-half strike from substitute Ashley Young saved England’s blushes after two first-half goals goals in three minutes from Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta gave Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side a 2-0 lead.

But while England may take a crumb of satisfaction at having gained a draw which leaves them one point clear of rivals Montenegro at the top of Group G, who play Bulgaria later Saturday, Capello will be dismayed by a poor display.

View all Euro 2012 Qualifier results and match fixtures.

Two bad mistakes by England gifted Switzerland their goals, and in the second half when the home side dominated, Capello’s men were unable to find the winner having clawed the game back to 2-2 after 51 minutes.

Darren Bent, spearheading England in the absence of the suspended Wayne Rooney, prompted howls of disbelief when he missed an open goal from eight yards on 71 minutes out that would have sealed a vital three points for England.

Capello had encouraged his players to take holidays following the end of the Premier League season two weeks ago, and in a disastrous three-minute spell midway through the half England looked as if they were still on the beach.

However, Capello insisted his players were tired. “The difference between the two sides was that we lacked energy, always the same problem,” he said.

“The Swiss were fresher. However, we ended up with a good result, I got a good reaction from the players in the second half but as always at this stage of the season we were without energy.”

Switzerland coach Hitzfeld was satisfied with a point but admitted he was disappointed his side were unable to defend a two-goal lead.

“If I had been offered a 2-2 draw at Wembley beforehand I would have taken it,” Hitzfeld said. “But we wanted to win. In the first 10 minutes we had more shots on goal than in our game against last game put together.”

“There’s a little bit of disappointment of course. If you’re leading 2-0 in England there’s hope that you can hold on. But there’s no reason to reprimand the team. They did everything they could.”

Hart was at fault for both of Barnetta’s goals on 32 and 35 minutes, which both came from free-kicks out on the left.

The first came when Barnetta swung in a hopeful setpiece that eluded everyone in the box and bounced past the England goalkeeper to make it 1-0.

It got worse three minutes later. This time the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder drilled his setpiece towards the near post, and when England’s two-man wall of Theo Walcott and James Milner parted, Barnetta’s shot squeezed past Hart.

Capello however refused to blame Hart for either goal.

“The first should have been cleared by a defender heading it away and the second those two players should never have parted. That was a really big mistake,” said Capello.

The disgust of England captain John Terry was evident but crucially the home side were able to conjure an immediate response, Jack Wilshere surging into the penalty area only to be brought down by Arsenal team-mate Johan Djourou.

Lampard stepped up to blast in the spot-kick and England had been given a vital lifeline.

With Young replacing Lampard at half-time, Capello had clearly decided England needed more pace in attack and the home side threatened within seconds of the restart, when Walcott burst forward only to be brought down by Djourou.

England appealed for a penalty but referee Damir Skomina was unimpressed.

Yet England did not have long to wait before they were level. Milner clipped a cross to Leighton Baines, on for the injured Ashley Cole, who chested into the path of Young for the Aston Villa striker to drive home.

The momentum clearly with England, it looked only a matter of time before Capello’s men took the lead.

A lovely run and pass from Wilshere released Bent on 65 minutes but the striker took too long to get his shot away and Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio cleared.

Then on 69 minutes Walcott sliced open the Swiss defence and squared for Young, who scooped his shot over the bar.

But the most glaring miss came two minutes later, and Bent was again the culprit.

Young went on a mazy solo run and shot to test Benaglio, whose save fell invitingly into Bent’s path. Yet with an open goal awaiting Bent somehow managed to shoot over the bar.

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