Thank heavens for Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who were the only real bright sparks on a night which fell flat as England had to settle for a share of the spoils in their first clash with the Republic of Ireland for almost 20 years.
Okay, so the home side responded well to Shane Long’s opening goal with a typical Frank Lampard strike, but apart from a series of lung-bursting runs by Arsenal’s young guns there was precious little else to get excited about.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, who cleverly set up the equaliser for Lampard, looked more eager than most to make an impression in what looked more and more like an end-of-season friendly as the game went on.
Walcott too showed that, unlike some, he wasn’t feeling the effects of a long, hard season – arguably his best-ever, certainly in terms of an impressive 21-goal return.
All that was missing last night at Wembley was a goal for either of the Arsenal flyers who got themselves into excellent positions.
Walcott, in particular, will be disappointed he didn’t make the most of a couple of one-on-one situations, but credit should go to Republic of Ireland keeper David Forde who kept his side in the game with a string of fine saves.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s sights were also wrongly set and his finishing from distance was pretty wayward at times, but at least he was creating openings and prepared to chance his arm.
On another occasion, we could have been looking at a comfortable England win with both Gunners’ wingers getting in on the goalscoring act.
Diplomatic England boss Roy Hodgson, typically, said he was satisfied with the performance and that there were a number of positives to take from the game.
Actually Roy, apart from Lampard scoring his sixth international goal in six games, there were only two.Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Let’s hope the two of them now get an extended run in the England side which now travels to Rio for the weekend friendly with Brazil at the revamped Maracana where we hope to see the dynamic duo dancing to the samba beat. Remember John Barnes in ’84?