England failed to record their first victory of this year’s World Cup, as a dismal goalless draw against Algeria means qualification from FIFA World Cup 2010 Group C is now hanging by a thread.
A victory over Slovenia in the last match of the section will still be enough to secure a top two spot, but because of the inept display on show tonight, many will now doubt whether they have the credentials to go all the way.
The England players looked short of confidence and lacking of ideas against Algeria, who – aided by Madjid Bougherra – were fantastic in defence.
Still, the likes of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard failed to perform again, and Fabio Capello has much to ponder before the clash with Slovenia.
In what was a frantic start to the match, neither side really created anything worth of note, but Ashley Cole looked threatening with forward runs down the left, and Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard had opportunities, but neither decided to shoot and the ball was cleared by the Algerian defence.
The game started to settle down after the ten minute mark, and England’s old problem of keeping hold of possession appeared to be haunting them again.
However, they were still the side in the ascendancy, and Gerrard tried to shoot from 25 yards, but it went well over.
England, however, almost scored an own goal through Jamie Carragher. Karim Ziani’s dangerous cross was flicked on by the Liverpool defender but, luckily for him, it went straight into the safe arms of David James.
Algeria were now settling into the game, and Ryad Boudebouz had two glimpse of goal, but James was untroubled on both occasions.
Then Bougherra’s excellent dipping cross was cleared by Gareth Barry, as the Africans really started to threaten.
Despite this, the game was going nowhere, especially for the English, but Gerrard’s drive from twenty yards did manage to at least test Rais M’Bohi in goal.
And then Frank Lampard provided Fabio Capello’s side’s best effort of the match. Aaron Lennon’s cross was not cleared properly and the Chelsea midfielder managed to get on the end of it. M’Bohli made a good save, but Lampard was on the stretch as he shot.
This put some light into what was another dismal opening display by the English, and they also looked uncomfortable at the back. Ziani had acres of space to tee up a long range effort, but, despite it being well hit, it was just past James’ right hand post.
England’s top players, again, were underperforming, especially Rooney and Gerrard. Algeria, on the other hand, were spirited, organised and energetic. Despite this, and the half chances they created in the first half, they looked as unlikely to score as their toiling opponents.
Bougherra and Ziani, in particular, were impressive and certainly did not look out of place against a much more heralded England team.
The second half started much the same as the previous one ended: flat and soulless. Neither country was able to dictate the play, nor were there many scoring opportunities in the ninety minutes.
This was summed up by Emile Heskey, who received the ball in a promising area down the right. Despite acres of space to run into and plenty of time to think, he blasted the ball high and wide.
Then with 55 minutes played, a mistake by Ziani allowed England to break, but Steven Gerrard’s pass was feeble and was easily cleared by the Algerian defence.
Algeria were then presented with a free-kick 20 yards from goal. Jamie Carragher was booked in the process, meaning he will be suspended for their final group match against Slovenia. Anther Yahia smashed the set-piece wide, despite hitting it with plenty of power.
Rooney almost opened the scoring after the hour mark. Aaron Lennon’s cross appeared to be perfect for the Manchester United striker. But, just before he could make contact, Rafik Halliche flicked the ball away for a corner.
After this, Capello made his first substitution; bringing on Shaun Wright-Phillips for the disappointing Lennon. This was an obvious attempt to try and inject some pace and urgency into the game.
As the game seemed to be fizzling out, Heskey found himself in another great position, but he decided to try and find Rooney instead of taking on the shot himself. However, he won a corner for his team, which gave Gerrard another scoring chance. His header, though, was straight at the goalkeeper.
England were the stronger side as the match wore on. And Gerrard almost set up substitute Jermaine Defoe, but the powerful Bougherra snuffed out the danger.
Algeria were offering very little as an attacking threat a this stage, and looked like they were happy to take a draw, with the hope of grabbing a goal from a counter attack. With England playing so poorly, a bit more ambition for the Algerians could have resulted in more chances being created, but they preferred to rely on defensive stability.
As Frank Lampard shot pathetically wide with minutes to go, the boos from parts of the England crowd were inevitable. Then Defoe’s speculative effort went well wide in the dying seconds, both sides had to settle for a point a piece; with Algeria being by far the happier side.
England: James, Johnson, A Cole, Terry, Carragher, Gerrard, Lennon (Wright-Phillips, 63), Lampard, Barry (Crouch, 84), Rooney, Heskey (Defoe, 74).
Algeria: M’Bohli, Bougherra, Belhadj, Yahia, Halliche, Boudebouz (Abdoun, 73), Lacen, Ziani (Guedioura, 80), Yebda (Mesbah, 88), Kadir, Matmour.