Wonder-strike stops England spoiling the party

BRAZIL 2 vs ENGLAND 2

Paulinho leaves it late to earn Brazil a draw at refurbished Maracana stadium

ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson felt his team were only denied a memorable victory in the Maracana thanks to a “wonder-strike” from midfielder Paulinho.

Sublime goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wayne Rooney saw England come from behind to lead late in the second half and threaten to spoil the party in the reopening of the iconic 78,000-seater stadium.

But Corinthians midfielder Paulinho ensured Brazil grabbed a share of the spoils, in England’s first fixture in Brazil for 29 years, showing expert technique to volley in the equaliser on 82 minutes.

“Some draws are labelled as victories and some as defeats,” said Hodgson, whose team have not lost a match in Brazil since 1969.

“Against Ireland we were disappointed not to win. And maybe I’m a bit disappointed here because we scored quite late on and we were playing so well, I thought we could hang on. But we were scotched by a wonder-strike.

“And I have to be honest and say we didn’t play anywhere near as well in the first half as we like to play and Brazil did. So if you look at the game over the 90 minutes a draw was a fair result.

“Our game was looking better before he [Oxlade-Chamberlain] came on, but he added another dimension and got his reward by scoring a very good goal.

“Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is very lively. Phil Jones did a good job, but he is much more of a defender being asked to play in midfield.”

England had goalkeeper Joe Hart to thank for keeping the score level before half-time, with the Manchester City stopper continually producing his brilliant best to frustrate Neymar and the Brazilian frontline.

The Barcelona-bound striker took advantage of right-back Glen Johnson’s failure to clear inside his own box, but Hart smothered away the poked effort.

Hart then pulled off a stunning double save to deny Hulk and Neymar in quick succession, before beating away long-range goal attempts from defender Daniel Alves and Chelsea midfielder Oscar.

England had not kept a clean sheet in their last nine meetings with Brazil and predictably fell behind on 57 minutes when forward Fred, nursing a broken rib, finished from close range after substitute Hernanes’ curling shot bounced back off the crossbar.

England had been on the back foot throughout but, despite the heat and electric atmosphere, Hodgson’s men burst into life in the final half an hour and levelled spectacularly on 67 minutes when Rooney teed up Arsenal midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain to volley in his third international goal from 20 yards, shortly after his introduction from the bench.

England were suddenly looking the most likely to win as they piled on the pressure and moved in front on 79 minutes when Rooney stormed forwards unchallenged to the edge of the box and his deflected strike across goal found the top corner – his 36th goal for England.

However, the Three Lions’ lead last only three minutes before Paulinho brilliantly finished Lucas Moura’s right-wing cross from 15 yards.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS
Joe Hart 9
Made excellent blocks from Hulk and Neymar in the first half to keep England in the game, and dealt comfortably with Brazil’s fizzing long-range efforts

Phil Jagielka 6
Put in a competent and calm performance as Brazil pushed hard in the first half, but could have been more alert for the home side’s opening goal

Michael Carrick 7
Playing in the most central midfield role, he protected the defence – with a key block from Neymar being one example. Stayed calm and composed

Theo Walcott 6
Made some excellent runs to offer England a dangerous outlet but more often than not failed to make good use of the ball. Drove his best chance straight at Cesar

Glen Johnson 5
Caught napping on 19 minutes as he let in Neymar and then scuffed an attempted clearance. Superb pass to Walcott soon after, but looked less certain at the back

Leighton Baines 5
Only on the field for 32 minutes, during which time he appeared to be struggling. Several sloppy passes perhaps revealed that the Everton man was carrying an injury

Frank Lampard 6
Lucky not to concede a penalty or at least a free-kick for a sliding tackle on Oscar. Drifted forward well at times but also gave the ball away too easily for a midfielder

Wayne Rooney 7
Endured a terrible first half but made amends with the curling shot that gave England the lead. Much more at home once the game had opened up after the break

Gary Cahill 7
Read the game well and made some interceptions to thwart Brazil’s attacks. Could have scored soon after the hour mark but his header from a corner went wide

James Milner 6
Gave away two early free-kicks and offered little outlet in the first half. But came to life in the second period and could have scored, taking two decent shots at goal

Phil Jones 6
Held a disciplined position in the midfield yet was unable to create much for his team. Showed versatility when switched to right-back in the second half

Substitutes
Cole (Baines, 32): performed well after coming off the bench, especially as England made more attacks down the left in the second half. Oxlade-Chamberlain (Johnson, 62): the Arsenal youngster played without fear, enjoying the stage and belting in a superb equaliser.

Rodwell (Walcott, 84): came off the bench to add some steel to the midfield and did his job.

By Julian Harris