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Fabio Capello defended his England side after they slumped to a disappointing goalless draw in their European Championship qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley.

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Wayne Rooney squandered two good chances for England, who should have had a penalty when Montenegro defender Milan Jovanovic clearly handled the ball in the second half but the same player then rattled the England crossbar minutes later with a savagely dipping 20-yard volley.

The draw leaves England three points behind leaders Montenegro in Group G, albeit with a game in hand. Capello said: "I am a fighter. It is one game. We have to fight again. I think we are a good team. The goalkeeper was the best player for Montenegro. This is football.

"You have to respect little countries. They have good players. At this moment they are psychologically at a high moment having won three games. They were compact. The quality was good. Against Algeria (at the World Cup) we didn't create a lot of chances. Tonight we did create chances.''

Capello refused to criticise the referee for not awarding a penalty and also defended Wayne Rooney, who missed two chances and again looked out of sorts.

Capello said: "Rooney played a normal game. He had two chances and twice the goalkeeper was very good, the second save was a fantastic save. We created four clear chances to score goals.''

Capello, however, did concede that England were fortunate when Jovanovic hit the bar with a shot which had beaten goalkeeper Joe Hart. "We were lucky because they had one shot at goal and it hit the bar,'' Capello said. "In other games they have had two shots and always scored.

"This (Montenegro) team is a good team at the moment. They are a compact team, they work a lot. They are technically good. It is the fourth time they have had a clean sheet. It is not easy, you have to score quickly against them to make it easier.''

Capello conceded that the next game against Wales in March will be crucial in a group where only the winner qualifies automatically. "The next game is really important against Wales,'' he added. "But every game in this group will be tough.''

When asked if the struggle against Montenegro would make him question his decision to continue after the World Cup shambles, he replied: "Absolutely no. This is my job. It is one game. When we finish the qualification it will have told you something about that.''

Montenegro coach Zlatko Kranjcar said: "We put on a great display. It wasn't easy but we had a plan. We knew England's strengths and we executed the plan perfectly.

"It is not a miracle. It is a result which exceeds all our expectations. It shows this team has the strength to achieve its goal of making the finals of the European Championships.

"We are closer to that goal but there are a lot of games to play. If the other teams do not fulfil their expectations we might even finish top of the group.'' On the penalty claim he added: "It is the referee's call. I did not see that it was intentional.''

Kranjcar believes his side can now shock England in the return match in 12 months time. He said: "I don't think England underestimated us. The next game against England hopefully we will have a full strength team.

"England are the clear favourites and they will find a way to win all their next games in the group, but I believe my team has the quality and strength.''


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