We blew it: England skipper Steven Gerrard admits his men “stopped playing” in Montenegro draw
The road to Rio looked so smooth after Rooney's early goal but Three Lions now face a fight all the way to the World Cup Finals
From John Cross in Podgorica
Steven Gerrard admitted England have just blown a glorious opportunity to take a giant step towards next year's World Cup.
Captain Gerrard saw his Lions switch off in the second half, which allowed Dejan Damjanovic to snatch an equaliser that leaves Roy Hodgson’s hopes of automatic qualification for Brazil in the balance.
The England captain said: “We stopped playing after the break for 20 or 30 minutes and away from home you can’t afford to do that.
“We stopped passing and they got a deserved equaliser. I think there was lot of experience out there, and we showed that in first half but the problem is when you are only 1-0 up you are always vulnerable.
“They took control in the second half, apart from the last 10 minutes, but we are still confident we can finish top of the group.”
England have four games left in Group H but Tuesday night’s draw leaves them still in second behind Montenegro, who have yet to come to Wembley.
But England appeared to be on course for victory after Wayne Rooney - sent off in Montenegro two years ago - gave them a sixth-minute lead.
Montenegro staged a second half fight-back and Damjanovic grabbed a late leveller.
Hodgson was annoyed that Danny Welbeck was booked for a dive when TV replays showed he was tripped.
Hodgson said: “My overall feeling is one of disappointment because things were looking good for us. We had to settle for a draw.
Chin up! Four wins out of four and Rooney and co are in Brazil
“I don’t think it’s a particularly bad result because Montenegro are a difficult team to beat, but it would have been nice to have built on that lead at half-time and profited from it and gone away with all three points.
“I don’t think Danny would have been wanting to go down in that situation, but there were several opportunities in that first half where we got behind the defence and were close to creating that opportunity.
“When you do that and don’t score, you run the risk that this Montenegro team will come out and play.
“I thought we stood up to it quite well, but they equalised in the 76th minute and we didn’t have time to come back again.
“It’s in our hands because we play Montenegro and Poland at home. We have to go to Ukraine, sure, but it goes back to the Ukraine result at home, where we drew when we’d like to have won.
“Maybe Ukraine away could be crucial for us, but with three out of the last four at home it’s still in our hands. We hope to make sure it remains in our hands by winning those matches.”
Montenegro v EnglandView gallery
Montenegro boss Branko Brnovic, upset by what he saw as English arrogance in the build-up, said: “Frankly, I was slightly provoked before the game with some statements I’d heard.
“But I must say we have been lucky enough to play England three times and we’ve not been defeated. To fight with them, and to fight for first place, is something that not many people expected.”
TV pundit Roy Keane savaged England’s performance.
He said: “That is where England let you down, you don’t get a complete performance and they don’t have that killer instinct.
“We saw that in the game. I’d love to know what happened at half-time as they were shocking in terms of concentration.
“You kill the game off by getting a second and third goal, that is what the top teams do.
“I can’t believe how bad England were in the second half.”
P W D L F A Pts
Montenegro 6 4 2 0 14 3 14
England 6 3 3 0 21 3 12
Poland 5 2 2 1 11 6 8
Ukraine 5 2 2 1 6 4 8
Moldova 6 1 1 4 3 10 4
San Marino 6 0 0 6 0 29 0
September 6 Moldova (h)
September 10 Ukraine (a)
October 11 Montenegro (h)
October 15 Poland (h)
Filed under: Euro 2012
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