Tonight England played their last group match in Euro 2012. They played Ukraine, one of the co-hosts of the tournament. Actually, it would be more accurate to say England played the entire Ukraine population as the vast majority of the 51,500 crowd was from Ukraine. And they didn’t stop supporting for the entire match.
Nicktor had suggested we travel to London to watch the game as two people from his old job were attending some sort of conference. Pete I know from cricket and it great to see him given we didn’t go to the cricket last year. We vowed to go next year as we both missed our yearly jaunt.
With Pete was Margot, from Holland. An seemingly indefatigable woman who, at 60 odd is doing a Masters in (possibly, as Nicktor wasn’t sure) accountancy, has a full time job as well as running her brother’s business and has a small farm’s worth of animals.
Included in the animal population are two German shepherds which sound like a pleasant handful. They did have three but one died a few weeks ago. Her husband decided they should get another as he was pretty devoted to the one that died. He had called her to say he’d gone and bought a Newfoundland. We discussed how beautiful Newfoundlands are though she is very aware of how big and how much work they are. She reckons it will get on very well with her Shetland ponies. Given it’ll be the same size, I reckon it will probably think they’re related.
Anyway, Pete and Margot were staying in a hotel on Cromwell Road, not far from where I work on Fridays. I’d hunted for a pub showing the football and found one in the Holiday Inn, next door to their hotel. I was a bit concerned it would be a trendy bar selling only high priced lager and designer drinks. We were pleasantly surprised.
The Cromwell Tavern looks, to all intents and purposes, like an old town pub and it serves London Pride (unlike the Olympics). Around the walls are numerous flat screen TVs which, when we arrived, were playing all sorts of sport. We arrived about an hour early (time to claim a good seat and have dinner) and were entertained by the New York Yankees. Of course, Nicktor called it rounders in his typically disparaging way.
We were pretty much settled in when the game started. Ukraine showed their intent right from the kick off. It was all attack, attack, attack. England had to defend strong and resolute, which they did, only pushing at the Ukraine goal when they intercepted any wayward passes.
The first half was pretty much all Ukraine but they couldn’t break through. A few scary half chances went flying over the bar to the delight of the crowd in our pub and the dismay of the crowd at the ground.
The second half started off pretty much the same except that England were starting to fight back against the tide of Ukraine players. And then, almost out of nowhere, a Stevie Gerrard cross found Wayne Rooney’s head and England were 1-0 up.
The pub went crazy. As England only needed a draw to go through to the next round, this meant Ukraine had to score twice. And Ukraine continued to pile on the pressure.
There was one very scary moment when they thought they’d scored. A looping kick went over the head of the England keeper, destined for the back of the net but was hooked back by a desperate and valiant John Terry (the man of the match as far as our table was concerned).
Having watched the replay from many angles, the ball had clearly crossed the line so it should have been a Ukraine goal but the linesman on the goal line was convinced otherwise. The Ukraine players beseeched the ref, the crowd screamed and yelled for justice, the Ukraine coach started going purple in the face as he gesticulated wildly to the fourth official. But it didn’t stand and the score remained 1-0.
In a way this was justice (or karma as Robbie Savage said on Breakfast this morning) as it cancelled out the awful decision at the World Cup when Frank Lampard scored but didn’t. Of course that’s no consolation to the Ukraine team but, all things being equal, they will probably get one back at some later date.
To be fair, we decided it was actually in after watching numerous slow motion replays, something the linesman certainly didn’t have at his disposal.
And so the game ended (after a nervy final three minutes of stoppage time) and the pub was jubilant. It was a great victory. Now all we have to do is beat Italy next Sunday.