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Euro 2012 - England VS Ukraine Recap

Rooney tap-in hands England victory in Ukraine over co-hosts

England overcame both a nervous start and a controversial goal-line decision to beat co-hosts Ukraine 1-0 in Donetsk and qualify for the knockout stages as Group D winners.

France’s unexpected 2-0 defeat to eliminated Sweden in Kiev ensured that Wayne Rooney’s tap-in three minutes into the second half was enough for England to claim top spot and thus set up a last eight clash with Italy in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday evening.

The Three Lions looked nervous, edgy and devoid of ideas throughout the first half hour in Donetsk as Ukraine dominated with some slick passing and smart play down the flanks.

Without main man Andriy Shevchenko who was forced to start the game on the bench, Ukraine were unable to convert their many chances and it was obvious that they were lacking a natural goal scorer to match an end product to what was an extremely impressive opening.

But England stayed patient and after weathering a rather rocky storm they carved out the best chance of the first period as Steven Gerrard planted a terrific cross from the left hand side onto the head of the returning Wayne Rooney, who was unable to seize the moment with the goal at his mercy.

Ukraine finished the half as the better team but the situation was to change almost immediately after the interval.

Roy Hodgson’s half time words clearly had an impact on England who started the second period on the attack and they hit the front on 48 minutes when a low, driven cross from the right hand side scooped up in the six yard box for Rooney to make amends for his earlier miss.

Job half done for England who now needed to avoid conceding twice in reply to go through.

But hearts were really in mouths on the hour mark as a swift Ukrainian move culminated in a deflected shot being heroically cleared off the goal line by John Terry – only for replays to then show that the ball had already crossed into the English net.

The whole of Ukraine erupted in anger at the decision and coach Oleh Blokhin was clearly disgusted at the fact the goal line official failed to realise what had just occurred.

The incident initially served to fire up the home side who continued to put England under concerted pressure however Hodgson’s men stood firm and took the sting out of the game with twenty minutes remaining.

Shevchenko finally entered the equation in an attempt to galvanise his team but the Ukraine had already flat-lined and it was to be England’s night with a much needed clean sheet to boot.

As well as avoiding World and European champions Spain for the time being, topping the group table ensured that England will receive an extra day’s rest ahead of the quarter-finals which will really be a mouth-watering prospect.

It is the first time England and the Azzurri have met at a major tournament since the third placed play-off at Italia 90 and the next few days are likely to see a flood of tabloid hype ahead of what will be a crucial clash between the two nations, who were both relatively unfancied at the start of the championship.