England recovered from a two-goal deficit to maintain their unbeaten record in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group G in an entertaining tie that brought Switzerland reward for an enterprising display.
The home side trailed to two direct free-kicks from Tranquillo Barnetta but Frank Lampard quickly reduced the arrears from the penalty spot and his half-time replacement, Ashley Young, struck a fine equaliser six minutes after coming on. England were relieved, though, that Montenegro were held 1-1 by Bulgaria so the unbeaten pair remain level at the top, six points ahead of Switzerland.
Switzerland, needing a win to revive their bid, were bold in their attacking intent and it was not uncommon to see four or five red shirts in and around the England area. Twice Joe Hart was forced into saves in the opening eight minutes, the second a smart readjustment to keep out Gökhan Inler’s deflected drive.
England had found little penetration since an early charge from Darren Bent but their hopes rose again as Lampard found Rio Ferdinand with a measured cross only for the defender’s header to clear the crossbar. Just before that Xherdan Shaqiri had extended Hart again but the goalkeeper’s next involvement left him shaking his head.
Barnetta’s free-kick was clipped into a crowded penalty area and evaded everyone to creep in by Hart’s left-hand post. It was only the second goal England had conceded in the group but within three minutes they let in another – and from the same source.
This time Barnetta had a tighter angle but his delivery headed towards the right-hand corner after dissecting the two-man wall. Hart strained to scramble the ball away with his right boot but failed, leaving Barnetta, without a goal in his previous 32 internationals, to celebrate again.
However, Jack Wilshere immediately began to demonstrate the bite that had been lacking for England, twice coming through tackles before drawing a foul from his Arsenal FC team-mate Johan Djourou. Lampard’s penalty was struck hard and under Diego Benaglio’s dive.
Young replaced Lampard at the break and was immediately prominent. Following a throw-in, Leighton Baines, an earlier replacement for the hobbling Ashley Cole, set up Young and his shot had just enough power to defeat Benaglio.
More opportunities came England’s way. Benaglio came out to deny Bent and when he only partially stopped another Young attempt, it seemed Bent must put England ahead but over went his shot. Late on Admir Mehmedi came close to clinching victory for Switzerland while with the last kick, Stewart Downing missed the target.
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