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England slip to narrow defeat against Euro champs Ukraine

England fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of European champions Ukraine (Saturday 20 June), as the Cerebral Palsy World Championship group stage drew to a close over the weekend.

The defeat means the Three Lions will now take on world champions Russia in the quarter-finals, which will take place on Wednesday 24 June.

Much like the interchangeable weather at St. George’s Park, it was an afternoon of mixed emotions for England’s CP team.

Despite the narrow defeat, they will come away from the contest knowing they matched their much-fancied opponents for long spells. However they will also ultimately feel disappointed they were unable to get the goal they needed, after coming close on a number of occasions.

As bright sunshine turned to downpours, back to bright sunshine and then showers again – all within the first 30 minutes of the contest – the 500-strong crowd were treated to a fine spectacle of elite sport.

Ukraine, ranked second in the world, began the game in appropriately confident fashion. As expected they had most of the ball and looked to dictate the pace of the game, but England were not without their chances. 

Emyle Rudder – a scorer in the first match – jinked past his man in the box and went down under a challenge. The referee adjudged there to have been no contact and the England man was booked for his troubles. 

Matt Crossen – who is appearing at his first World Championship – fired just wide from long range as Keith Webb’s side continued to go toe-to-toe with Ukraine.

Despite the pressure of possession, England continued to offer a threat on the counter-attack. 

Crossen again went close and James Blackwell cut a confident figure in the middle of the park.

Eventually Ukraine made their possession pay and opened the scoring just past the halfway mark of the first period.

Oleh Len broke on the right flank and picked out Volodymyr Antoniuk in the centre. 

The tall forward took a touch, steadied himself and fired a bullet shot past Giles Moore in the England goal.

However, already assured of qualification to the quarter-finals thanks to Iran’s late withdrawal and their opening-day mauling of Japan, England never looked daunted by their opponents – who until the recent outbreak of civil war in Ukraine were a full-time outfit.

England were not overawed. They remained tight, compact and disciplined.

The quality in Ukraine’s ranks meant they would always have chances, but a series of last-minute blocks by England’s committed backline prevented them from extending their advantage.

It was another full house in the sunshine at St. George's Park.

The Three Lions lost Rudder – to what looked like a serious injury – in the opening moments of the second half.

He was replaced by Martin Sinclair – brother of Aston Villa winger Scott, who was in the crowd at the National Football Centre.

He was almost immediately booked for a preventing a Ukraine breakaway by hauling down the pacey Antoniuk. 

As the closing stages approached England remained in the game. 

Captain Jack Rutter dropped back to a sweeper-like role and used his passing range to operate as England’s quarterback.

And it almost worked. England caused problems as Barker twice got into dangerous positions after being picked out by Rutter's inch-perfect long passes.

But the closing stages ended in frustration for Webb’s side. As England were for the rest of the game, Ukraine were resolute, organised and determined. 

There was no way through for England and Russia await on Wednesday.

England: 1 Giles Moore; 4 Matthew Crossen, 5 Jack Rutter (C), 7 Michael Barker, 8 James Blackwell, 9 George Fletcher, 14 Emyle Rudder.

Substitutes: 6 Martin Sinclair for Rudder 26. 11 Oliver Nugent for Rutter 50. 12 Jake Brown for Blackwell 57.

Substitutes not used: 2 Harry Baker, 3 Karl Townshend, , 13 Ryan Kay.

Bookings: Rudder, Sinclair, Blackwell.

Ukraine: 1 Kostyantyn Symashko; 2 Vitaly Trushev, 4 Taras Dutko, 5 Oleh Len, 9 Dmytro Molodtstov, 11 Volodymyr Antoniuk, 13 Artem Krasylnykov.

Substitutes: 7 Vitali Romanchuk for Len 45.

Substitutes not used: 3 Yevhen Zinoviev, 6 Edhar Kahramanian, , 8 Denys Ponomarov, 10 Stanislav Podolskyi, 12 Bohdan Kulynych, 14 Artem Sheremet.

Goals: Antoniuk 18.

Bookings: Trushev

For all the latest news from the Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships 2015, visit their website.