International round-up: Rice and Yarmolenko in qualifier action
Two West Ham United players started for their respective international sides in Friday evening’s UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches.
Midfielder Declan Rice again began the game at the heart of England’s midfield against Czech Republic in Prague – his third consecutive start for Gareth Southgate's Three Lions.
The match also marked the 20-year-old midfielder’s sixth international cap, as well as his first start alongside best friend Mason Mount in the centre of the park.
Rice was his usual industrious self and saw his side take an early lead when Lukas Masopust felled Raheem Sterling after five minutes, England captain Harry Kane tucking away the resulting spot kick.
The lead wasn’t to last long, however, as four minutes later, Gareth Southgate’s side struggled to clear a corner and the ball made its way through to Jakub Brabec at the far post, who diverted it over the line.
England largely struggled for rhythm throughout as Czech Republic poured forwards in numbers and had the better of the second half chances, buoyed on by a vociferous home backing.
The match was sealed when Masopust atoned for his earlier error by crossing for Zdenek Ondrasek, who swept home a debut goal with five minutes remaining to win it for the Czechs.
England’s first defeat in a qualification match in ten years leaves them and Czech Republic level on points at the top of Group A, albeit the Three Lions having a game in hand against bottom side Bulgaria in Sofia on Monday evening.
Enjoying a more positive result tonight were Andriy Yarmolenko and Ukraine, who put in an assured display to comfortably see off Lithuania 2-0 in Group B.
Yarmolenko took up his customary birth on the right wing for Ukraine at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, having made his comeback appearance for his nation against the same opponents last month.
With 68 per cent possession and 16 shots to the visitors’ six, Ukraine controlled the game for long spells, and took the lead when Ruslan Malinovskyi fired them in front after 29 minutes.
The Atalanta midfielder then doubled the home side’s advantage, converting a second-half free-kick to secure Ukraine’s fifth win in six qualifiers so far this campaign.
Yarmolenko departed the field after 64 minutes with the result well and truly secure, as Ukraine went five points ahead of second-placed Portugal – the next team to face them, in Kiev on Monday night.