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By ESPN Staff

Ferdinand blasts referee over penalty claims

Rio Ferdinand hit out at German referee Manuel Grafe's performance after England spluttered to an embarrassing goalless draw in Tuesday night's European Championship qualifier against Montenegro.

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Ferdinand insisted Grafe should have awarded his side two second-half penalties, one when Ashley Young went down in the box and the other when the ball appeared to hit the arm of visiting defender Milan Jovanovic.

Describing both incidents as "definite penalties'', the England captain said: "It was just disappointing really. You expect the referees to be able to be up with play and performing at the highest level. Today, we just didn't get that. When you're playing at international level, you've got to deal with situations that come about. Today we had two really good shouts for a penalty and we didn't get them.''

Vice-captain Steven Gerrard, who Ferdinand deposed as skipper, blamed Grafe's assistant, adding: "I saw the handball incident very clearly and the referee was really close. I was very surprised that he never saw it but even more surprised that the linesman hasn't seen it because it's on his side and, at this level, you need that little bit of luck, especially when things are difficult and you're finding it hard to break the opposition down.''

Despite the controversy, there was no disguising the fact that England toiled throughout the 90 minutes.

Ferdinand said: "First half we took a little while to get going. Second half the manager told us to up the tempo and make sure we got at them a bit more. We did that and created a few chances. Their keeper had a really good game and we probably should've had a penalty. But that's part and parcel of playing football at this level. Sometimes teams set their stall out to say 'Can you break us down?' And today unfortunately we didn't do that.''

Gerrard added: "We pushed and pushed and we tried to put them under loads of pressure. But, credit to Montenegro, they defended really strongly, they're a big, physical team and they're very well organised. We had a good couple of chances through Wayne but the keeper made some good saves.''

The draw ended England's run of 11 straight victories at Wembley and they now face a wait of more than five months before their next qualifier in Wales.

"It's only a pity, really, we've got five months now to sit back and stew over this,'' Ferdinand said. "When you're at your club you can get the next game out the way in a couple of days. We didn't lose, we didn't concede a goal, which was pleasing. But, at Wembley, we'd liked to have sent our fans home happy.''

Despite the outcome, Ferdinand was delighted to be captaining his country again after his World Cup injury nightmare.

"It's been a long time,'' he said. "Obviously, the manager made me captain and it is an honour. You can't put it into words how proud you are to walk out and lead your country and today was a great feeling.''


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