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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 7 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 15, 2006

'No negatives' in Holland result - McClaren

Steve McClaren felt there were `no negatives' from the 1-1 draw with Holland, even though Rafael van der Vaart's late equaliser denied England their first win in Amsterdam since 1969.

Pilloried in the wake of last month's dismal defeat to Croatia, McClaren was a man under siege in the build-up to the game.

But with Joe Cole up front in a new 4-3-3 formation, England shrugged off the pressure to produce a much-improved performance which should have brought them victory.

The visitors created enough chances to score many more than Wayne Rooney's single first-half strike and Steven Gerrard might have won it at the end after Van der Vaart had taken advantage of rare frailty within the England defence, blasting home after Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink had flicked on Arjen Robben's long throw.

'I asked for a performance and that is what we got,' said McClaren. 'We are all disappointed we didn't win because we deserved to.

'Apart from the goal we had half a dozen very good chances and on another day we would have won. I can't think of any negatives about the system or the game plan.'

McClaren insisted he had not been affected by the intense spotlight before kick-off, preferring instead to focus his attention on getting the most from the players who let him down so badly in Zagreb.

'I am not bothered about the criticism, all I am bothered about is the team, the performance and the result,' he said.

'My job is to get the players to perform like they did tonight. That is the only thing that concerns me.'

After missing the first five games of McClaren's reign with a knee injury, Cole proved to be the missing link.

Starting on the left, then moving to the right, the Chelsea man was behind most of England's most inventive moves.

It was his cross which offered Rooney the chance to end his 12-month international goal drought, having already supplied the telling ball from which the Manchester United man should have put England in front eight minutes earlier.

'Joe Cole is one of those flexible players you need at international level,' McClaren added.

'He is a player who can beat players and take opponents out of the game. The cross for the goal was excellent.'

By pushing Cole into a more advanced position and stationing Andrew Johnson on the other side of Rooney, McClaren offered Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard the chance to utilise their talents from a narrower midfield base.

The move effectively closed down Holland's midfield, with home coach Marco van Basten admitting his side had been reduced to firing high balls into the England penalty area in a bid to find an equaliser.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Hesselink managed to unsettle the England defence when it mattered.

'We couldn't find any space on the ground so we had to get the ball in the air,' said Van Basten.

'In the end we got a bit lucky because England played well and they had chances to score another before we got one back.'

McClaren admitted he did not expect to concede in such a manner but he remains confidence such weaknesses will be eradicated by the time England tackle Spain at Old Trafford on February 7.

He also remains upbeat about England's chances of reaching Euro 2008 even though away wins for Croatia and Russia earlier in the evening nudged his side out of the two qualifying berths.

'We are three points behind Croatia but we still have to play them at home, while Russia are one point ahead and we have to play them twice,' observed McClaren, whose side's next qualifier is in Israel on March 24.

'I think this group won't start until there are three or four games to go and I believe it will go down to the wire.

'I never thought it would be a breeze for anyone. Whoever thought that was silly. But I still say we are in a very good position.'

Dutch coach Marco van Basten, who was missing some key players at the Amsterdam Arena and whose full-strength side are top of qualifying Group G, had no real complaints.

'I'm satisfied with a fair result against an England side at full strength, while we missed players like Robin van Persie, Edwin van der Sar and Wesley Sneijder, who all three bring something extra,' he said.

His team lacked their usual attacking threat without striker Van Persie, with Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt struggling against his Premier League rivals at the back for England.

'Kuyt played an unfortunate match against a very experienced pair like (Rio) Ferdinand and (John) Terry,' Van Basten said. 'You have to realise you will not get past them easily.'