ENGLAND CAPTAIN STEVEN Gerrard admitted to feeling hard done-by after being sent off in his side’s lacklustre 1-1 draw against Ukraine, but insisted Roy Hodgson’s team were still on course to qualify for the World Cup.
Gerrard was shown two yellow cards by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir at Wembley on Tuesday, with the second coming in the closing moments, and the Liverpool midfielder will now miss England’s next qualifier against San Marino in October.
Beating minnows San Marino without Gerrard shouldn’t prove a major problem, but the early enthusiasm sparked by a 5-0 victory in Moldova in England’s first match on the road to Brazil has been dimmed by their laboured efforts against Ukraine.
England needed an 87th penalty from Frank Lampard to avoid a shock defeat following a spectacular first half strike from Yevhen Konoplyanka – and Gerrard’s dismissal, perhaps harsh given he appeared to win the ball, denied them an opportunity to push for a winner at the end.
I don’t think there was a bad tackle in the game, was there? And I think the referee’s given seven yellow cards,” Gerrard said. “It’s disappointing for me because it’s a red card – my first one in 98 caps.
“But we play San Marino next. I’m sure the boys can do the job without me and then I’ll be available for Poland. I’m gutted over the red but happy with my performance.
“We wanted to win this game. We’re at home with our crowd behind us, so we’re disappointed not to get the three points.
“But having gone a goal down, I think we showed fantastic character and determination.
“We kept probing for the openings and, when the subs came on, I thought we created more chances. I thought we thoroughly deserved the point, if not a bit more on chances.”
Gerrard, however, was also impressed with the performance of Ukraine, a team that England only narrowly beat 1-0 during Euro 2012.
“I don’t think there’s much between these two teams,” he added. “You’ve got to give them credit. They’re a fantastic team and I think it’s going to be one of us who tops this group. That’s my prediction.
“I thought in general play, we controlled it. We looked the side who wanted to create all the openings and I think we’ll probably have a better chance of beating them away because they’ll have to come out and take more risks.
“But, credit to them, they’ve come to Wembley and they’ve got a draw.”
Gerrard’s red card was not the only controversial moment of the night.
England were also denied an opening goal when Jermain Defoe fired home in the first half but saw his effort harshly ruled out for a foul as he fended off his marker.
“I don’t think it would have been pulled back in any other league or any other game,” said England defender Phil Jagielka.
That’s what we are getting used to now. If I’m Jermain and I’ve brushed someone away and then smacked one in the top corner I’d be absolutely devastated it’s been pulled back.
“They got a goal soon after which was a double whammy. But the boys showed great character to keep going.
“It was definitely one point gained in the end. It’s four points for us from the first two games – we would have loved six, especially after the last performance – but four points is fine.
“We look forward to the next game now and if we can win that then hopefully we can still finish top of the group.”