Uruguay forward Luis Suarez did something which he did not manage to do in the Premier League this season – score past Joe Hart – as he netted twice in the South Americans’ 2-1 win over England in their Group D clash in Sao Paulo.
While Roy Hodgson named the same 11 as the one which started against Italy in Manaus, he gave Wayne Rooney the role behind Daniel Sturridge up front.
Following their 3-1 defeat by Costa Rica, Oscar Tabarez named no fewer than five changes to his starting-line-up, with the talismanic Suarez fit again after a knee injury.
Indeed, it was Suarez who created the game’s first real chance. His whipped, low corner to the near post looked to be swinging-in, catching Hart off-guard, but the ‘keeper recovered and parried the ball behind for another corner. England’s best early chance also came from a set piece. A goal-bound effort from Sturridge hit the arm of Diego Godin and referee Carlos Velasco awarded a free-kick in a central position. Rooney stepped up to take it and curled it just off-target.
Both sides traded periods to enjoy spells of possession and territorial advantage, without creating much in the way of clear opportunities. However, Rooney was just inches away from scoring his first World Cup goal in the 31st minute. Steven Gerrard’s free-kick was swept into the box, the Manchester United man rose with Godin and saw his header rebound against the angle of the post and crossbar.
Then, just as the Three Lions began to find their roar, Uruguay hit them on the counter attack. The tenacious Nicolas Lodeiro won possession in the middle of the park and found Edinson Cavani. The PSG forward produced an inch-perfect chip to evade the head of Phil Jagielka and find Suarez, who headed the ball past Hart to put La Celeste ahead in the 39th minute.
Just as they did against Italy, England’s response was almost immediate. Rooney fed Sturridge, who beat his markers for power and pace and fired a shot which Fernando Muslera did well to save at his near post.
The start to the second half mirrored the first, with another in-swinging corner almost catching Hart and the England defence out. Cavani had a great chance to score but flashed an effort just wide as Hodgson’s side struggled to cope with the South Americans’ emphatic start.
Yet England refused to give up. Leighton Baines found Rooney in the box and he forced Muslera into a fine low save, although the forward will feel that he should have scored.
Just as it looked as though his World Cup curse would continue, with 15 minutes on the clock, the England No10 prodded home Glen Johnson’s cross to equalise.
Rather than settle for the draw, both sides went for the winner and given the football which had been played previously, it came from a direct route. Muslera’s goal-kick was flicked on into the path of Suarez and the Liverpool forward ran through a static England defence before firing past Hart to settle this topsy-turvy encounter with five minutes to go.
The fit-again Suarez was hoisted aloft by his team-mates at the final whistle, as Uruguay’s hopes of reaching the Round of 16 were boosted. The Three Lions still have a chance in the final round of fixtures, should they defeat Costa Rica, but must now rely on other results going their way too.