England striker Darren Bent has revealed Fabio Capello refused to blame him for a pair of costly misses in his side's 2-2 draw against Switzerland.
Capello's team would have completed an impressive fightback against the Swiss if Bent had taken two gilt-edged chances that came his way in the second half of the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier at Wembley yesterday. England had just recovered from two goals down to equalise soon after half-time when Jack Wilshere's sublime pass put Bent clean through on goal.
The Aston Villa striker out-paced Johan Djourou but, with just Diego Benaglio to beat, he lost his footing and allowed the Swiss goalkeeper to save. Unfortunately there was worse to come for Bent, who had scored three goals in his last three internationals, as he squandered an even better chance in the closing stages.
When Benaglio failed to hold an Ashley Young shot, it seemed certain that Bent would bury the rebound from ten yards. However he got his body shape all wrong and spooned his shot way over the open goal. It was easily one of the worst misses by an England striker for decades and it proved to be the final opportunity for Capello's men.
Capello refused to criticise
Bent's wayward finishing has put England under increased pressure to win their final three Group G matches against Bulgaria, Wales and Montenegro next season as they bid to reach EURO 2012 without the need for a second-place play-off. But Capello opted against criticising Bent in front of his team-mates.
"I walked into the dressing room and straight away Fabio said don't worry about it," Bent said. "I even walked over to the touchline after the second chance and he said don't worry. It was a great ball from Jack for the first one but the keeper came out and there wasn't really an angle to put it in there.
"Of course I would expect to score the second one but all strikers miss chances and I'm sure when the next one comes I will bury it. As a striker you practice taking chances like that but today it wasn't meant to be. But we will move on from that and take the positives from the game."
Although Capello has been pleased with Bent's progress since his £18million move from Sunderland to Villa in January, he could find his place in danger after this horror show. Wayne Rooney will be back from international suspension next season and Bent admitted all he can do is continue his good form for Villa and hope Capello maintains his forgiving stance.
"He has shown real faith in me this season. He has played me again for another 90 minutes and I thank him for that. That hasn't always happened in the past," Bent said. "All I can keep doing is do well for my club, which I think I did this season."
Terry not looking for excuses
Capello believes England were below their best against the Swiss because they were exhausted at the end of a long season and Bent agrees that fatigue was a factor in the lacklustre display. "I'm sure some of the guys who have played in the Champions League will have played a lot of games. It's difficult. I wouldn't say it's a bad excuse," he said.
"People do get tired. If we had played as well in the first half as we did in the second the game would have been a bit better. I'll get a good rest now because it's been a long old season and I need to rest my bones and come back ready to compete for the striker spot again."
However, England captain John Terry insisted his team-mates shouldn't use tiredness as an excuse. "That's no excuse, we're not going to stand here and say we're tired," he said. "We're not going to come out here and use excuses like that. The players pride themselves on how they look after themselves. We're disappointed with two sloppy goals but we fought hard to get back into the game."