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Football: Robinson's error so costly for Lions; Mistake gifts goal to rivals.

Byline: SIMON STONE

England 1

Germany 2

THERE was not a penalty in sight but Paul Robinson's howler ensured England still experienced that familiar sinking feeling against Germany at Wembley, writes SIMON STONE .

Frank Lampard's first international goal for 12 months had raised hopes of a rare home win against the old enemy.

Unfortunately, on a night of experimentation and preparation, the positives gained from an encouraging performance which deserved better than the eventual result, will be overshadowed by Robinson's woes.

The Tottenham man gifted Kevin Kuranyi Germany's equaliser with a miserable mistake and nothing during his 45-minute appearance suggested anything other than that his replacement, veteran David James, should be installed when Israel head to Wembley on September 8 for a game coach Steve McClaren has already described as a "must-win" if England are to reach Euro 2008.

The goalkeeping conundrum will occupy McClaren's mind for most of the next 17 days, although there was little Robinson could have done to keep out the sweet strike from Christian Pander which ultimately gave Germany their win.

With injuries to Steven Gerrard and Owen Hargreaves ensuring McClaren did not face the recurring difficulty of shoe-horning his star midfield trio into the same team, it was perhaps no surprise Lampard revelled in the open space he found.

It has increasingly appeared the Chelsea man would be the expendable one of the three. Yet his eye for goal, allied to the vast experience he has gained at the highest level for both club and country mean Lampard should not be sidelined without every effort being made to keep him in the team.

Whether his talents would stretch to a role just behind a lone striker in the key clashes next month - when Wayne Rooney will still be nursing his broken foot - is open to debate.

There was no denying the quality of his finish after Micah Richards had capped a thrilling solo burst by slipping a pass inside Pander to provide Lampard with the chance to flash home his 13th England goal. It was the high point of another excellent performance from Richards, who is quickly establishing himself as an essential member of McClaren's team.

Certainly, the England coach faces a very delicate choice at right-back once Gary Neville is fit. Sadly, the same is now also true of the goalkeeping position as Robinson's decline continues. The 27-year-old Tottenham man is haunted by the error that gifted Croatia their opening goal in Zagreb last October and his confidence now appears shot to pieces.

With a clear head, Robinson would surely have taken the safe option to push Bernd Schneider's cross over his own bar when the Germany captain launched the ball to an unguarded near post from the right touchline.

Instead, having failed to regain his ground following his own initial clearance, Robinson took the catastrophic option of pushing it back into his own six-yard box, straight into the path of Kuranyi, who could barely believe his luck as he tapped into an empty net. Trust between coach and player is a major component of any team sport. In the case of McClaren and Robinson it must be eroding fast. Certainly another mistake like that against Israel or Russia, who head to Wembley four days later, could easily end up costing the England coach his job.

It was not Robinson's only error either.

Had Christoph Metzelder's header been on target when he met a Pander free-kick the England keeper charged out to catch without getting anywhere near, Robinson's face would have been as red as the German shirts. In the event, the visitors did not need any help from Robinson for their second as Pander finished off an intricate three-pass move by belting what proved to be the winner into the top corner.

The result, however, should not eclipse the positive aspects of the evening. Michael Owen lasted almost an hour and in three weeks' time the Newcastle forward's sharpness may have returned to an extent where he will take at least one of the two good chances that fell his way. And, in fairness to Owen, it took an outstanding save from Jens Lehmann to deny him on the first occasion.

Joe Cole too can be reasonably satisfied with his efforts, while there was no sign David Beckham's trans-Atlantic trip had taken any toll.

Major League Soccer's highest-profile star set up Kieron Dyer twice in as many minutes midway through the second half.

The latter opportunity was the best but Dyer disappointingly slid his shot wide, while Philipp Lahm nodded John Terry's header off the line near the end as England continued their fruitless chase for parity.

ENGLAND: Robinson (James 46), Richards, Ferdinand (Brown 46), Terry, Shorey, Beckham, Carrick (Barry 55), Lampard, Joe Cole (Wright-Phillips 70), Smith (Crouch 57), Owen (Dyer 57). Subs (not used): Taylor, Neville, Downing, Defoe, Carson.

Booked: Joe Cole.

Goals: Lampard 9.

GERMANY: Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Odonkor (Hilbert 54), Schneider (Castro 90), Hitzlsperger, Pander, Trochowski (Rolfes 72), Kuranyi. Subs (not used): Hildebrand, Kiessling, Helmes, Tasci.

Goals: Kuranyi 26, Pander 40.

Attendace: 86,133

Referee: Massimo Puscaba (Switzerland).

Key moments

10minutes: Micah Richards cuts in from the rightand finds Frank Lampard, who applies a near-postfinish past Jens Lehmann.

21: Christoph Metzelder heads wide from a corner.

23: Thomas Hitzlsperger drills wide from long distance.

26: Equaliser comes after Hitzlsperger's shot is saved but not cleared. Paul Robinson parries Bernd Schneider's goal-bound cross into the path of Kevin Kuranyi, who taps in.

33: David Beckham's free-kick headed wide by Alan Smith.

34: Joe Cole gets booked; Metzelder heads over from the free-kick - but looks offside.

40: Christian Pander crashes winner into the top corner from 25 yards.

41: Smith crosses to Michael Owen, but his header is saved by Lehmann at full stretch.

45: Owen hits frame of the goal after a ricochet fromLehmann falls to him.58: Cole drills into the side-netting.

64: Bernd Schneider finds Kuranyi, but the striker makes a mess of things with the goalkeeper to beat.

66: Kieron Dyer stabs wide from Beckham's low cross.

77: John Terry's header from a corner cleared off the line.78: Shaun Wright-Phillips forces a save from Lehmann.

90+4: David James tips over from Kuranyi.

CAPTION(S):

TOO SHARP: Christian Pander scores at Wembley last night as Germany secured a victory in the friendly with England.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 23, 2007
Words:1060
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