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Wednesday September 11, 2013 MYT 6:57:14 AM
Wednesday September 11, 2013 MYT 6:57:17 AM
Ukraine's Edmar (R) fights for the ball with England's Gary Cahill during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Olympic stadium in Kiev September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
KIEV (Reuters) - Unadventurous England defended stoutly to contain Ukraine and edge closer to next year's World Cup finals after a scrappy 0-0 draw on Tuesday left the Group H leaders in pole position to secure a ticket to Brazil.
A point from an untidy match which featured few goalscoring chances after a hectic opening 10 minutes moved England on to 16 points with two matches to play, one ahead of Ukraine and Montenegro with Poland two points further back.
Unmarked Ukraine defender Artem Fedetskiy wasted his side's best opening after 73 minutes when from six metres out he headed straight at keeper Joe Hart from a corner.
Frank Lampard then almost capped his 100th England appearance with the winner when his stooping header crept past a post in stoppage time.
"It was probably a fair result. I think we had clear control of the game in the second half," England manager Roy Hodgson told ITV.
"It was for them to be adventurous, not us. In the first half, there were quite a few interesting situations. Perhaps we did not have quite the quality we needed to make that count.
"We have lost seven players from the original squad and I think we have to be more than satisfied... We gained the result without riding our luck."
England, who have yet to register a group win so far against any team other than Moldova and San Marino, welcome Montenegro to Wembley on October 11, the same night Ukraine host Poland.
In the concluding fixtures four days later, England host the Poles with Ukraine away at San Marino and Montenegro playing Moldova.
England, still unbeaten in competitive fixtures under Hodgson in regulation time, had few alarms after the opening exchanges with Hart rarely tested by a Ukraine side that showed little of the vibrancy that secured a 1-1 draw a year ago at Wembley when they were denied victory by a late Lampard penalty.
Hart was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty inside the first 60 seconds when he made contact with Roman Zozulya as the striker looked to meet a dangerous low cross, but a corner rather than a spot-kick was awarded.
England also threatened early on with Steven Gerrard testing keeper Andriy Pyatov from long range and moments later the keeper had to come flying out of goal to clear the danger from Theo Walcott.
Ukraine again tested England's creaking backline with right back Fedetskiy unable to get on the end of a teasing cross, then Gary Cahill was forced to make a timely interception with Zozulya lurking.
The rest of the half dissipated into stalemate with neither Hart nor Pyatov suffering undue alarm.
Ukraine, surprisingly, appeared reluctant, or unable to raise the tempo after the break with England comfortable at the back, although the visitors also lacked conviction in attack.
Left-sided midfielder Yevhen Konoplyanka did his best to lift the hosts, his curling freekick from the edge of the box on 71 minutes deflecting narrowly wide.
Two minutes later an unmarked Fedetskiy headed straight at Hart from a corner.
England, missing injured strike duo Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, along with suspended fellow frontman Danny Welbeck, lacked penetration with Rickie Lambert an isolated figure as the lone striker.
They did almost steal the points in the closing seconds but Lampard was unable to get his header on target after a long throw-in was flicked into his path.
Ukraine coach Mykhaylo Fomenko described the match as a "game of nerves".
"It is hard to assess our chances of topping the group after this game. Had we won tonight it would be different," he told reporters.
"England are a strong side with players involved in the Champions league. No doubt, they were tough opponents."
(additional reporting by Igor Nitsak, Writing by Justin Palmer in London, editing by Toby Davis)
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