Hart heroics help England to Brazil draw
- 02 June 2013 22:05
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc
Joe Hart almost single-handedly kept Brazil at bay for 57 minutes in a spirited draw at the new Maracana.
A string of outstanding saves from Hulk, Neymar and Oscar frustrated the World Cup hosts for nearly an hour until the Brazilians’ greater class and creativity showed on the scoreboard.
Fred’s deadlock breaking goal after 57 minutes was cancelled out against the run of play by Alex Oxlade Chamberlain 10 minutes later.
A much improved England briefly held the lead after Rooney’s deflected strike but Paulinho levelled with seven minutes remaining.
Brazil had invited England to open the recently renovated 76,935 capacity Maracana Stadium in Rio and the scorching temperatures certainly favoured the home side going into this mouth-watering exhibition.
England boss Roy Hodgson has been on the end of some scathing criticism after a rather limp end-of-season showing in the draw with Ireland on Wednesday.
A lack of tactical flexibility, technical quality and an inability to keep hold of possession were among the charges levelled at the national team
Hodgson brought James Milner into his side as one of three changes from the Ireland draw.
Elsewhere, Leighton Baines and Phil Jones came into the line-up for Ashley Cole and Oxlade-Chamberlain, giving England extra solidity to combat the wizardry of Neymar, Hulk and Oscar.
When the sides last met at Wembley back in February, City’s no.1 was the hero after saving a Ronaldinho penalty to help England to a 2-1 victory.
This time, the 26-year old was unsurprisingly the busier of the two goalkeepers in the early stages and made an important save after 17 minutes.
New Barcelona recruit Neymar, brought down a mishit clearance from Glen Johnson and tried to prod over the onrushing Hart but the keeper reacted quickly, making himself big and pulled off a great save from point-blank range.
Hart was required again 10 minutes later for an excellent double save, first getting down well to a Hulk shot from a one-on-one before then getting up quickly to pinch the ball from off the toes of Neymar.
It was turning into an outstanding performance from Hart who had to beat away a stinging drive from Oscar on the half-hour mark.
The first half resembled a training ground attack v defence exercise at times but England could have gone in at the break ahead after Theo Walcott pulled the trigger from 15-yards on 40 minutes but QPR keeper Julio Cesar made the save.
Despite that late flicker of hope in the half, stats showed that Hart had the most touches of any England player in the first half with 41 which was 11 more than his closest teammate.
The away side’s luck finally ran out just before the hour when a drifting Hernanes effort came back off the crossbar with Hart beaten, giving Fred the easiest of tasks to convert from the rebound.
Milner thought he’d levelled the match on a rare foray into the Brazil half after 63 minutes until his goal-bound effort from the edge of the box was deflected wide by David Luiz but the equaliser was just around the corner.
Second half substitute Oxlade Chamberlain let rip with a ferocious volley from 25 yards which nestled into the bottom corner of Cesar’s goal.
All of a sudden England were on top and looking the more dangerous side and Wayne Rooney completed a shock turnaround with 12 minutes remaining after latching onto a pass from Milner to curl a deflected shot around Cesar from range.
That lead lasted just three minutes because of a spectacular volley from Paulinho which left Hart with no chance – a goal which prompted the introduction of Rodwell for his third international cap.
That was the end of the scoring, meaning that Hart, Lescott, Milner and Rodwell sign off for their summer breaks after a hugely credible result in international colours.