Rooney on target in lucky victory
ENGLAND scraped into the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 yesterday after a goal-line refereeing blunder helped them to a 1-0 win over Ukraine in Donetsk that sent the co-hosts crashing out.
A 48th-minute header from returning talisman Wayne Rooney was enough to see England finish top of Group D and send them into a quarterfinal in Kiev on Sunday against Italy.
However Ukraine - missing injured captain Andrei Shevchenko - were desperately unlucky not to have earned at least a draw after Marko Devic had a clear goal disallowed on 62 minutes. Devic had powered into the box and his looping shot had flown over keeper Joe Hart towards goal.
John Terry launched himself into an acrobatic clearance to hook the ball away but, despite Ukrainian appeals, no goal was given.
TV replays, however, showed the ball had crossed the line by several centimetres. It is almost certain to hasten the introduction of goal-line technology.
England had ridden their luck in a one-sided first-half, which Ukraine dominated, carving out a string of promising openings only to be denied by either desperate defending or Hart's goalkeeping.
Rooney's long-awaited return to the starting lineup failed to galvanise the England attack.
Somehow England had managed to stay level at the break and then three minutes after the restart they got a goal that stunned the hosts.
Steven Gerrard beat Andrei Yarmolenko down the right and sent a dangerous cross into the box. The ball took touches off two Ukrainian defenders before skidding through goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov to Rooney for the simplest of headers.
Ukraine fought back brilliantly, with Milevskiy heading just over the bar on the hour mark.
Shevchenko's arrival from the substitutes' bench on 70 minutes threatened a revival, but there was to be no fairy-tale ending for the veteran striker.
Below-par France also qualified for the quarterfinals as group runners-up despite a superb Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike and a late Sebastian Larsson goal condemning them to a 2-0 defeat by Sweden.
Ibrahimovic's acrobatic volley from just inside the area, the striker swivelling to meet Larsson's cross, put already-eliminated Sweden ahead on 54 minutes in what will be a strong contender for goal of the tournament.
Lethargic France, grateful to keeper Hugo Lloris for some important saves to stop them falling further behind, came to life in the last 20 minutes, but Sweden secured victory when Larsson followed up to score after substitute Samuel Holmen struck the crossbar.
Today is a rest day at the tournament.