Match Reports

Leicester 1-0 Aston Villa

Paul Konchesky pulled Leicester to within two points of safety as The Foxes beat Aston Villa.

Konchesky struck a fine left-footed strike at the end of the first half in a match that Leicester dominated.

Matty James and Ciaran Clark were sent off in stoppage time as tempers boiled over.

The Foxes remain bottom of the table but are level with relegation rivals Crystal Palace on 17 points.

David Nugent wasted a great early opportunity by putting an effort wide in the 13th minute after Marc Albrighton slid him in.

Christian Benteke then had the ball in the net but he was flagged offside.

Nugent passed up another glorious opportunity to score, this time with his head, as he managed to put the ball wide from three yards.

He came close with a spectacular volley from the edge of the area that cannoned off the bar.

Leicester continued to pile the pressure on and Konchesky fired in a brilliant effort from just inside the area after Alan Hutton failed to clear.

The Foxes came out the traps quickly in the second half and almost doubled their lead but Brad Guazan expertly denied a Matty James header with a fingertip save.

Guzan made another excellent stop to deny former villa man Albrighton’s drive.

James lunged in on Jores Okore to earn a straight red card while Clark received a second yellow card for his reaction to the incident.

Benteke came close with a header but Leicester held on.

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Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool

Lazar Markovic scored an early winner for Liverpool as they saw off ten-man Sunderland.

The former Benfica man poked the ball past Costel Pantilimon in the ninth minute that capped off an excellent performance for the Serbian.

Liverpool dominated the first half but struggled to kill the game off after Liam Bridcutt was sent off following a second booking after half time.

Neither side created too many chances but Markovic and Adam Johnson both hit the woodwork with shots from distance.

Liverpool wanted an early penalty when Markovic went down as he raced through but Craig Pawson ruled that Wes Brown didn’t make contact.

Markovic was rewarded five minutes later as he bundled the ball through Pantilimon after battling past Patrick van Aanholt in the box.

Markovic almost added a stunning second with an audacious and improvised effort that crashed against the bar.

Bridcutt was then booked for clipping Steven Gerrard’s heels in the middle of the pitch.

Jordan Henderson hit the post after a smart chest and volley but was penalised for handball.

Fabio Borini almost added a second after racing in behind Brown, skipped past Pantilimon but could only find the side netting.

Bridcutt was then sent off after receiving a second yellow for bringing down Emre Can on the right hand side.

Sunderland appeared galvanised by the red card and Johnson almost grabbed a stunning equaliser but his long-range effort swerved against the bar.

It was a brief renaissance, however, and Liverpool comfortably held on for the win.

Everton 3-0 Aston Villa

Ross Barkley completed 65 minutes following a lengthy layoff as Everton strolled to a comfortable victory against Aston Villa.

England international Barkley tore his knee ligaments in a training session earlier this season that had ruled him out since August.

Phil Jagielka, Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman all scored as Villa conceded their 11th consecutive goal without scoring.

Christian Benteke made his first start of the season and had a goal disallowed in the second half.

It was a comfortable afternoon for Everton who secured their first home win of the season.

Leighton Baines provided two assists as The Toffees returned to form following a poor start to the season.

Villa have now reached the end of their horrific run of fixtures that has seen them face last season’s top five.

Everton took the lead in the 17th minute as Jagielka headed home a whipped in cross by Baines from six yards out.

Nathan Baker limped off after blocking a Steven Naismith shot and was replaced by Ciaran Clark.

Alan Hutton almost equalised moments later with a curled left-footed shot from 25 yards but it flew narrowly wide.

Lukaku extended Everton’s lead as Brad Guzan let the Belgian’s tame strike slip under his body and into the back of the net.

Benteke then had an effort disallowed for shoving Antolin Alacaraz in the back before putting the ball past Tim Howard.

Seamus Coleman added a third after a good ball into the box from Baines.

On the whistle: Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

Jose Mourinho extended his unbeaten record against Arsene Wenger to 12 matches as Chelsea battled to victory over Arsenal.

Diego Costa continued his excellent scoring record by notching his ninth goal in seven Premier League appearances.

Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas provided the assist for Costa’s goal to ensure it was a happy afternoon for the Spaniard after Eden Hazard had opened the scoring.

Hazard both won and converted his penalty to give Chelsea a first half advantage and extend their lead at the top of the table to five points.

The Gunners failed to register a single shot on target before the 90th minute, despite enjoying a decent amount of possession, and were outmanoeuvred by Mourinho’s men.

The match was delayed by fifteen minutes due to a flare being set off by an entrance to the away end.

Alexis Sanchez was denied a chance by an onrushing Courtois, who was flattened by the Arsenal winger for his troubles.

Gary Cahill earned himself a booking for a poor challenge on Sanchez that led to Mourinho and Wenger being involved in a heated exchange on the touchline.

Courtois was still suffering from his accidental clash with Sanchez and was replaced by Petr Cech just after the 21st minute. Courtois was taken to hospital.

Chambers was then booked, for the fifth time this season, for a challenge on Eden Hazard and now misses Arsenal’s next match against Hull.

Hazard was involved again moments later as he brilliantly skipped past three Arsenal defenders including Laurent Koscielny who subsequently brought him down and was booked.

Hazard casually rolled the penalty into the corner with Szczesny diving the wrong way.

Hazard caused Arsenal numerous problems and his drilled ball across the box deflected off Flamini to force Szczesny into an excellent save.

The Gunners were then incensed that they weren’t awarded a penalty after Fabregas blocked a Wilshire shot with his hands.

Costa scored Chelsea’s second by looping the ball over Szczesny after an excellent ball over the top of Arsenal’s backline from Fabregas.

Costa then missed an open goal in stoppage time that could have been his tenth goal of the season.

Majestic Arsenal Batter Below-Par City

The Community Shield saw FA cup holders Arsenal run out 3-0 winners over Premier League champions Manchester City at Wembley.

Santi Cazorla fired Arsenal in front with an expertly executed finish whilst Aaron Ramsey smashed home a second just before half time.

Olivier Giroud completed the rout with a stunning long-range strike over Willy Caballero.

It was a very impressive team display from the North London side who looked solid at the back, dangerous going forward and were rarely troubled by their Premier League rivals.

City, however, offered an extremely flat performance and Manuel Pellegrini made no effort to hide his frustration on the touchline.

Calum Chambers, Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy all made their competitive debuts for Arsenal whilst Fernando and Caballero made their first starts for City.

City were missing some key players such as Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta so Pellegrini won’t be too concerned by how easily his side were dismantled.

Arsenal were also without World Cup winners Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil and will be delighted to have performed so ably without them.

The result should give them a big boost for their match against Crystal palace next weekend but City will need to recover confidence before their opener against Newcastle.

Arsenal started the brighter and Mathieu Debuchy was particularly impressive down the right hand side in the opening exchanges.

Samir Nasri, the former Arsenal player, was verbally abused every time he touched the ball by Arsenal fans.

He almost silenced their jeers in the 13th minute but Calum Chambers was quick to block his goal-bound effort.

It was Arsenal, however, who deservedly took the lead in the 22nd minute through Santi Cazorla.

The Spaniard evaded Gael Clichy on the edge of the City area before firing a low left footed strike into the corner of Caballero’s goal.

Yaya Sanogo, who scored four goals in a pre-season friendly against Benfica, had a chance to score his first competitive goal for Arsenal but dragged his shot wide.

It was Arsenal who continued to impress and Clichy deflected a long-range Cazorla shot for a corner.

Sanogo had another chance from the resulting corner but his header landed comfortably in Caballero’s arms.

City almost equalised five minutes before half time after Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic combined well during a quick break, but a swarm of Arsenal defenders managed to block.

Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey scored moments later, however, to double their advantage. Sanogo held up the ball well in the box and fed Ramsey who smashed the ball past Caballero.

Alexis Sanchez had an opportunity to make it three at the end of the first half but Caballero was quickly out of his area to slide at Alexis’ feet and deny him.

David Silva, Nacho Monreal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Giroud were introduced at half time for Nasri, Alexis, Laurent Koscielny and Sanogo.

Fernando was booked early in the second half for pulling Jack Wilshire to the ground.

Jovetic came agonisingly close moments later after rising over Debuchy to thump a header against the post.

City had begun the second half much brighter than the first and Wojciech Szczesny was finally called into action to deny Jovetic, who fired a stinging shot towards the keeper’s right hand post.

James Milner and Bruno Zuculini were then introduced by Pellegrini to replace Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure.

Giroud scored an absolute screamer with his left foot from outside the area and bent it over Caballero to give Arsenal a three-goal advantage.

Jovetic, who was City’s most creative attacking force, attempted an elaborate overhead kick but it flew comfortably over the bar.

Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky were then called upon by Wenger to replace Wilshire and Cazorla.

Micah Richards came on for Aleksandar Kolarov as substitutions began to disrupt the flow of the game.

Jesus Navas was also withdrawn for Scott Sinclair and Aaron Ramsey replaced by Joel Campbell; Arsene Wenger’s final substitution.

Dedryck Boyata had a great opportunity to grab a consolation for City but his header from a corner went wide.

Brazil 1 – 1 Chile (3-2 on penalties)

It was a hugely dramatic night in Belo Horizonte as Brazil came out on top in a penalty shoot out, after 120 minutes of gripping football failed to separate these two South American sides.

It was Brazil who drew first blood after 18 minutes. Thiago Silva’s flick from Neymar’s in-swinging corner fizzed towards David Luiz at the back post, only for Jara, a man whose night would be filled with tragedy, to nudge the ball inadvertently into his own net.

Shortly after, Neymar, looking bright, showed great pace and trickery to burst into the Chilean box but could only drag a weak shot well wide. Brazil looked much the better side in the opening half hour, as the terrifying atmosphere created by the wonderful home support at the Estadio Mineirão seemingly overawed the Chilean players.

However, a sloppy touch after receiving a throw in, saw Hulk, who was off colour for much of the 90 minutes, gift Chile possession deep inside the Brazil half. Eduardo Vargas couldn’t believe his luck as he stole in and slid a ball to Alexis Sanchez who in turn slotted home from close range. It was a dreadful goal to concede from a Brazilian perspective, especially as they had dominated for much of the game so far.

Sanchez’ goal injected life into the Chileans who now looked far more comfortable on the ball, no longer relying on pacey counter-attacks. That said, Brazil continued to have the better of the play as a stunning ball from Oscar left Neymar again in a dangerous position inside the Chilean box. This time the young star hesitated, allowing defenders to smother the attack. Their attempted clearance, however, almost saw Fred score a lucky goal as the ball bounced off the foot of the number 9, only to fly narrowly over the crossbar.

Dani Alves’ superb swerving strike from range forced Bravo to parry the ball over his cross bar, while Fred tragically miscued one of his many off-target shots in the first half. A mistake from Luis Gustavo allowed Sanchez to play Aranguiz through on goal, only for Luiz to get back and smother his effort, conceding a corner.

That would be the final play of an exhilarating half which had plenty of chances, errors and fouls, at times threatening to boil over –  Fred and Gary Medel exchanged a heated moment as they trudged off at the interval.

It was a slightly cagey start to the second half but on 55 minutes the Mineirão exploded as Marcelo’s long ball into the box found Hulk who controlled and sliced a finish across Bravo and into the bottom left corner of his net. The ecstatic Porto man wheeled away to the home support, only to realize that Howard Webb had blown his whistle, with either he or his assistant Mike Mullarkey having adjudged Hulk to have used his arm to take the ball down. After several studies of the replays from various angles, it seems that somehow, incredibly the officials made the correct decision.

The game again turned slightly more subdued and it was Chile who were having the better of the play, with Cesar forced into a superb reaction save from Aranguiz’s powerful close range effort.

Scolari felt he had to change things and hauled Fred off after yet another disappointing display. His replacement Jo almost made an instant impact but somehow failed to get any sort of a solid contact on Hulk’s wicked ball across, perhaps justifying his lack of game time for Manchester City despite his inflated price tag.

The game rather petered out and extra-time looked inevitable, despite two saves from Bravo as Neymar had a headed chance and Hulk struck from distance.

Extra-time continued in much the same vein as the second 45, but still had the odd moment of exciting individual skill, most notably as Hulk, who was the best player in this period, danced past two Chilean defenders and forced another smart stop from Bravo.

This was one of few moments of quality in the latter stages, as players inevitably tired. Jo again fluffed his lines while the equally beleaguered Pinilla, Chile’s substitute, hit a few poor shots either off-target or into defenders. However, right at the death, that man Pinilla left Brazil inches away from crashing out of their own tournament as he smashed a thunderous drive against the upper half of the crossbar, in what would be almost the final play before the shoot-out.

 

It was 2-2 after four penalties each, with two smart saves from Cesar, a limp attempt from Willian and the pick of the bunch from Aranguiz. It was now sudden death, and who else but Neymar would step up and take such a crucial penalty for the Brazilians? It would have surely been too cruel for him to miss and after a tricky run-up he slotted home in a fittingly cool fashion. Chile’s hopes now rested on free-agent Jara, recently released by Nottingham Forest and the man who put Brazil in front early on. His bad luck was not up, however, as he sent the Brazil players, staff and fans into raptures as his penalty cannoned back off the post.

 

The result was harsh on Chile, but Brazil probably deserved their victory despite their less than convincing performance. Scolari will surely need to address some pressing concerns with his side’s play, notably their low passing accuracy – Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo both culpable, and also whether Fred can really justify a place in the starting 11.

 

Player Ratings:

 

Brazil:

Julio Cesar – 8:
Made a stunning save from Aranguiz and was solid throughout the match. Also superb in the shoot-out.

Alves – 7:
Not always the most defensively assured but had one brilliant effort at goal and put in several dangerous crosses.

Thiago Silva – 6:
Solid on the whole but wasn’t alert to the danger for Chile’s goal. Made a few good tackles later on, though.

David Luiz – 6:
No real errors today for a man who is often guilty of sloppy defending, and would have found himself on the score-sheet had Jara not done the job for him.

Marcelo – 7:
Excellent going forward, had a chance early on and put several great balls into the box, the best of which led to the big controversy with Hulk’s alleged hand-ball.

Fernandinho – 5:
I understand why this was Scolari’s only change, as he looked impressive as a substitute against Cameroon. But the Man City man failed to make any real impact and actually gave away more fouls than he made passes in the Chile half.

Luis Gustavo – 5:
Not great in possession and guilty of giving away too many fouls, also gifted Chile a chance at the end of the first half. That said he did win the ball back importantly on a few occasions and didn’t stop running.

Oscar – 5:
Frustrating afternoon for the Chelsea man as he really didn’t see much of the ball. Did make one or two good long distance passes but was on the whole disappointing.

Hulk – 7:
Wasn’t at his best in the 90 but still threatened on occasions and was easily the best player in extra time. Was perhaps unlucky to have his goal disallowed and also could have had an assist had Jo got contact on his cross.

Neymar – 7:
Certainly Brazil’s best player in normal time but looked tired towards the end of the game. A number of moments of individual quality but was guilty of passing up a few good opportunities.

Fred – 4:
A passenger throughout the game and hit several feeble shots wide of the mark. Still don’t think he adds anything to the side and Scolari must surely be considering other options

 

Subs:

Jo – 5: (on for Fred – 62 mins)
Not much better than the man he replaced, made little impact and scuffed a good chance.

Ramires – 6: (on for Fernandinho – 72 mins)
Was inevitably full of running when he came on and stretched Chile’s tiring midfield at times.

Willian – 6: (on for Oscar – 106 mins)
Looked fairly lively with one good cross and one good free kick in the dying minutes of the match. Could have done more though.

 

Chile:

Bravo – 8:
My choice for man of the match, with a string of superb saves he kept Chile in the game at times. By no means at fault for the goal, either.

Isla – 7:
Looked solid defensively and also got forward well.

Silva – 7:
Strong in defence and made a number of important blocks.

Mena – 5:
The least assured of Chile’s defenders as he was beaten far too often by Neymar and struggled when Marcelo got forward.

Medel – 6:
A typically combative display from the Cardiff man, with a number of characteristically strong tackles a few of which actually saw him get the ball.

Jara – 5:
Mercilessly unlucky both with the own goal and the penalty miss. Was generally solid for the rest of the game but no doubt a game to forget for him.

Vidal – 7:
He’s the man who makes Chile tick, and he started off a number off attacks with pinpoint passes. They didn’t look the same side after he went off.

Vargas – 6:
Looked dangerous on occasions but was subbed off before what was probably Chile’s best period.

Aranguiz – 7:
Always looked to get involved and had two good chances; the first saw a good block from Luis and the second forced a stunning save from Cesar.

Sanchez – 8:
A constant threat on the counter in the first half and showed his quality throughout the match. Finished his only clear-cut opportunity with typical precision.

Diaz – 6:
Had some good link up play with Sanchez and Aranguiz but blasted a few shots and a free kick way off target. Failed to carve out any real chances.

 

Subs:

Gutierrez – 5: (on for Vargas – 55 mins)
Given plenty of time to make an impact did little to impress.

Pinilla – 6: (on for Vidal – 87 mins)
Was generally wasteful but was a few inches away from sealing a famous victory with a fabulous effort right at the end of the game.

Rojas – 5: (on for Medel – 108 mins)
Not really given long but barely touched the ball.

Match Report: Switzerland 2-5 France

What a game. A contender for game of the tournament so far, as well as the performance of the tournament by France. Patrick Vieira noted that Didier Deschamps left out both Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy but this was for the good of the team, and France are really reaping the benefits of leaving out disruptive influences.

Deschamps: Right to leave out Nasri and Clichy

Deschamps: Right to leave out Nasri and Clichy

Switzerland started the game shakily and were punished when Olivier Giroud rose highest to thump a header past the Swiss goalkeeper Benaglio. A minute later, Benaglio’s head was in his hands again as he failed to save Matuidi’s shot to make it 2-0. Mathieu Valbuena capped a breathless breakaway goal to put France 3-0 up with Giroud and Varane at the centre of the move.

In the opening 45 minutes Benzema earned and missed a penalty, with Cabaye inexplicably missing the rebound. Switzerland were let off.

The second half quickly followed the fashion of the first with Benzema capitalising on a Senderos mistake to slot the ball past the goal keeper to make it 4-0. A defence consisting of Johan Djourou and Phillipe Senderos looks and feels like an Arsenal Carling Cup back 4 circa 2010, and it is no surprise that they didn’t win that cup in the past 9 years with these two clowns as back up defenders.

Senderos endured a torrid night against France's forward line

Senderos endured a torrid night against France’s forward line

Benzema was involved in France’s fifth goal, playing in Sissoko with a perfectly weighted pass, who struck to further condemn Switzerland. The score line really didn’t flatter France. They were in scintillating form, and Switzerland were awful.

It was only after the Swiss were 5-0 down that they showed some intent. Dzemaili pulled a goal back with a 30 yard free-kick, but the French wall should have done much better. This was before Xhaka added another goal, taking down Inler’s chipped pass with a superb controlled volley.

Benzema was denied a great late goal as the full time whistle had gone before he curled the ball around the goalkeeper with a first time effort from the edge of the box, sparking premature celebrations.

Benzema won a penalty, missed a penalty, scored a goal and was denied a goal by the full-time whistle

Benzema won a penalty, missed a penalty, scored a goal and was denied a goal by the full-time whistle

Benzema and Giroud were immense together. France really look like the real deal this tournament and they will be hard to beat. It’s a shame that England didn’t look at France’s example of playing with a balanced team instead of the “on-form” players who may not necessarily complement each other. Nasri would not have fit into this team, and France are now on the brink of qualifying for the last 16, and whoever plays them is up for a tough task.

Belgium 2 – 1 Algeria : Match Report

 

Super subs rescue Belgium as the Red Devils get off to a winning start.

 

Belgium’s opening game in this world cup campaign was against the side with the highest FIFA ranking in Africa – Algeria. Whilst many people were expecting this game to be a walkover for Belgium, the North African side provided a very tough test for the team billed as this tournaments dark horse.

A fairly uneventful opening to the game saw Belgium have the lions share of possession without creating any clear cut chances, as Algeria displayed defensive solidity and discipline to keep Marc Wilmots’ team at bay.

However, it was Algeria that drew first blood. Completely against the run of play, Ghoulam’s teasing cross from the left was heading towards Sofiane Feghouli at the back post before Jan Vertonghen, struggling to get back goal-side, lazily bundled him over for a 24th minute penalty.

Feghouli, arguably his team’s stand out performer, was quickly on his feet and coolly converted the penalty to send the Algeria fans inside the Mineirao stadium into delirium.

That goal was a wake up call for the Belgians, and they quickly started to find their stride, zipping the ball around nicely in midfield. However,they never really troubled the Algerian back line in the first half with lone striker Romelu Lukaku cutting a frustrated figure as he lacked support of any real quality up top.

Jan Vertonghen tried to make amends for his earlier mistake late on in the half, but his driven free-kick that flew over the crossbar will probably be still rising long after the tournament has finished.

The half time interval saw Marc Wilmots make his first tactical change of the tournament, bringing on Napoli’s Dries Mertens for the ineffectual Nacer Chadli, in an attempt to add some more pace and penetration to the toothless attack we saw in the first half. However the second half began in the same vein, with Belgium controlling possession without causing Algeria any real problems, and the African outfit showcasing their disciplined defensive structure, gradually dispelling any notions that they will be the groups whipping boys.

By the 65th minute, Marc Wilmots had played all his cards, bringing on Manchester United’s bog-brush Doppelgänger Marouane Fellaini for Moussa Dembele and Origini for Lukaku. The final change to bring on Fellaini paid dividends immediately, with the big Belgian thundering a backwards header in off the underside of the crossbar following a delightful cross in from Kevin De Bruyne. With one whip of that Belgian Barnet the sides were back level, and the relief within Belgium’s ranks was palpable.

After the goal, the momentum was with Belgium, and they started to probe much further into Algeria’s half – Credit Wilmots for making the changes as Belgium immediately looked like more of a threat with Fellaini playing in the number 10 role and Mertens offering much more than his compatriot Chadli.

Belgium completed the comeback in the 79th minute, when another of Wilmot’s substitutes, Dries Mertens, fired in the second. The move started from a fantastic slide tackle deep in his own half by Kevin De Bruyne, and the crowd were treated to their first glimpse of the lightning fast counter attack Belgium hold in their repertoire. Hazard burst away from the Algerian midfield before sliding a lovely ball across to the unmarked Mertens in a 3v2 attacking situation, and the Napoli man fired an unerring finish past the oncoming goalkeeper.

Fellaini nearly added a 3rd minutes later with another towering header, but the Algeria keeper showed fabulous reactions to tip it over the bar.

Belgium held on for the final few minutes to seal their first win of the tournament, and go top of Group H. Ultimately it was an impressive start after a small hiccup in the first half, and the game highlighted Wilmots tactical guile as well as the character present in the Belgium team.

 

 

England 1 – 2 Italy : match report

A disappointing but not unexpected result in Manaus has left England’s hopes of group qualification looking somewhat precarious.

After a highly spirited performance, England will find themselves hard done by to finish the game without a point to show for their efforts.

England started so promisingly with early long range efforts from Sterling and Henderson, the former cruelly rippling the side netting in a manner that sent many England fans into a state of mistaken euphoria.

Antonio Candreva, who caused England’s left hand side no end of problems, forced Joe Hart into a less than convincing save from distance twenty minutes in. The Lazio man kept Leighton Baines constantly busy, who in truth could have done with more protection from his winger Rooney.

Shortly after, the first clear cut chance of the match fell to England. Welbeck beat his man on the right before sliding a low cross towards Sturridge who was ready to pounce in the centre, only for Andrea Barzagli to get a crucial touch, flicking the ball just inches away from the Liverpool striker.

The tempo dropped around the half hour mark, with both sides keeping the ball well when in possession and Pirlo looking increasingly threatening when allowed space.

England will be disappointed to have conceded in such a manner, but it was a well worked corner routine which put the Italians in front on 35 minutes. A clever dummy from Pirlo on the edge of the box allowed Marchisio to drill home from 25 yards. His low shot slotting through the legs of both Rooney and Cahill before finding the bottom left hand corner.

Just two minutes later however, England found themselves level. It was the perfect response, with an incisive counter attack allowing Rooney space on the left to play a perfectly weighted cross to Sturridge who still had a lot to do, but England’s number 9 made it look easy, converting coolly on the half-volley.

A nervous moment just before half time saw Joe Hart rush out to close down Mario Balotelli, who’s smart chip required a vital goal line header from Jagielka to see England in level at half time.

After the break Welbeck switched sides with Rooney to try and sure up England’s left hand side. It was to little effect however as once again Candreva had the better of Baines and supplied one of many superb crosses over Gary Cahill, leaving who else but Balotelli to nod in at the back post.

How England needed another quick response, but the Italians had learnt from their earlier mistake and bought on Motta for Veratti to sure up their midfield and suffocate the game.

Despite this, the best chance of the match fell to Wayne Rooney who picked up Baines’ excellent pass before cutting inside and fooling Sirigu who went the wrong way, but his shot rolled agonisingly wide leaving Roy Hodgson with his head in his hands.

In the last twenty minutes however, as England tried desperately to create chances, there were only free-kick efforts from specialists Baines and Pirlo to speak of. Pirlo’s strike was by far the more promising as he wickedly whipped the ball from right to left, only for it to plant the crossbar and fly over, leaving Joe Hart motionless and the crowd awestruck.

All in all, Italy probably deserved their victory but England will rue that Rooney miss which would have made their position in the group look far more promising. That said, with Uruguay’s shock loss against Costa Rica, England will fancy themselves to come out victorious in their next match if they can put in a similar performance, even if talisman Luis Suarez returns for the game.

England player ratings:

Hart : 6
A few nervous moments but generally solid. Couldn’t do much for either goal.

Baines : 5
Had a very tough afternoon against Candreva who was allowed to cross all too often. Did provide a good pass for Rooney’s chance.

Johnson : 6
Showed good attacking intent and generally solid, but perhaps should have been covering for Italy’s second.

Jagielka : 7
The best of our back four, looked assured and confident. Impressive.

Cahill : 6
Generally solid but caught out for Italy’s winner.

Gerrard : 6
A quiet night by his high standards, and wasn’t involved much going forward but kept the ball well on the whole.

Henderson : 6
Promising early on, with some good runs and a decent effort. Faded before being substituted.

Sterling : 8
Adventurous and dangerous for large parts of the match. Had a few great dribbles and put in some decent balls, also hit an excellent strike just wide.

Rooney : 5
Very quiet for much of the game. Didn’t provide adequate cover for Baines to help quell the threat of Candreva and Darmian. Missed the chance of the match but provided a sublime ball for Sturridge’s leveller.

Welbeck : 7
Never stopped running and showed his importance by winning the ball back on numerous occasions. Criticised for lacking drive going forward and taking easy options, but almost found Sturridge early on to put England in front.

Sturridge : 8
Found him self in good positions on a few occasions, had some good link up play with both Welbeck and Sterling and put away a superb finish for England’s equaliser. He should take a lot of confidence from that performance.

Subs: Barkley : 7 (on for Welbeck ’61) Showed promise, looking fearless and threatening going forward.

Wilshere : 5 (on for Henderson ’73) Looked to make things happen but gave away possession too easily.

Lallana : 6 (On for Sturridge ’79) Not given much time to make an impact, but looked good when he got the ball.