Capello's men denied clear penalty by German refereeEngland were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw by a resolute Montenegro at Wembley, a result which leaves England with seven points from their first three matches in Group G. England dominated possession but struggled to create many clear cut opportunities on a frustrating night in North London.
England head coach Fabio Capello was forced into making made four changes to his starting line-up with Phil Jagielka, Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe all ruled out through injury and James Milner through suspension.
Rio Ferdinand was restored to the starting line-up and as captain after picking up an injury before the World Cup. Ashley Young and Adam Johnson were given their first competitive starts and Peter Crouch made his start since before the World Cup.
Montengro were hit with a setback before kick off as their star striker Mirko Vucinic was ruled out of the match after failing a late fitness test on his thigh. Milorad Pejovic replaced Vucinic upfront for Zlatko Kranjcar’s side in the only change from the 1-0 victory over Switzerland on Friday.
The match began at a slow tempo with both sides sizing each other up, but a touch of inspiration from Steven Gerrard in the third minute nearly created the perfect start. The midfielder played a long range through ball into the Montenegro penalty area aimed at Peter Crouch but the Tottenham Hotspur striker was unable to get his outstretched leg on the end of the ball.
Montenegro had their first attempt on goal four minutes later and it came from some mistakes by England’s right sided players. Adam Johnson lost the ball trying to come inside his marker and Glen Johnson was beaten to the ball by Milan Jovanovic and despite Ferdinand’s challenge on Pekovic the ball ran to Radomir Djalovic but he dragged his shot wide of goal.
England created their first real sight of goal in the 16th minute and again Gerrard was the instigator. The Liverpool captain fired a free kick out to Glen Johnson who was able to deliver a perfect cross onto the head of Crouch but he headed over from eight yards.
Adam Johnson was causing constant trouble for the Montenegro defence and in the 31st minute he very nearly created the opening goal. The Manchester City winger jinked his way past Jovanovic on the right wing but he was unable to find a teammate after dribbling into the penalty area on the goal-line.
And two minutes later Johnson went very close with a long range free kick, the winger struck the set piece from 30 yards which flew just wide of Montenegro goalkeeper Mladen Boskovic left hand post.
England dominated the remainder of the half and had nearly all of the possession but despite the efforts of Wayne Rooney, Adam Johnson and Gerrard they were unable to find a way through the resolute Montenegro defence.
Rooney had his first chance of the half in the final minute when Gerrard found Glen Johnson in acres of space behind the Montenegro defence, his low cross found its way to Rooney via a deflection but the striker’s shot was straight at Boskovic.
The second half began as the first had ended with Montenegro frustrating and disrupting England’s attacks. In the 58th minute Marko Basa was booked for a late challenge on young, but from the resulting free kick Adam Johnson fired well over the top of Boskovic’s crossbar.
A minute later Gerrard played a neat through ball into the path of Rooney inside the penalty area but he was closed down well by Boskovic who saved well with his legs and pounced on the loose ball before Crouch was able to fire home.
After an hour played England thought they had a good shout for a penalty but German referee Manuel Grafe disagreed and booked Ashley Young for diving. The winger looked to get inbetween two defenders and felt he was caught but the referee saw it differently and awarded a free kick to Montenegro.
Fabio Capello looked to change England’s attacking options with 20 minutes to play as Kevin Davies came on for his international debut in place of Peter Crouch. And the Bolton Wanderers striker almost an immediate impact as he delivered a perfect cross for Rooney but Montenegro were able to clear before the Manchester United man was able to get on the end of it.
In the 73rd minute the new strike partnership linked up well to provide the clearest sight of goal in the whole match. Davies and Rooney linked up on the edge of the penalty area before Rooney fired a shot with the outside of his right foot towards goal but his effort was fantastically saved by Boskovic with his outstretched right arm.
Four minutes later England should have been awarded a clear penalty following a handball by Jovanovic. A left wing cross from Ashley Cole was missed by every England man in the penalty area but it struck the full back on the left arm however the referee and assistant referee failed to spot it and the penalty claims were turned away.
The visitors very nearly caused an upset with six minutes to play as Jovanovic sent a 20 yard strike dipping past Joe Hart but crashing against the crossbar.