Robert Green became the first England goalkeeper to be sent off as Fabio Capello saw his 100% World Cup record smashed to pieces by the Ukraine.
Green was dismissed for a professional foul just 15 minutes into what turned
out to be one of the worst defensive performances in Capello's time in charge.
Wayne Rooney is exempt from criticism after a towering display which he nearly
capped with a last-minute equaliser. But at the back, it was a collective
Rio Ferdinand's return to competitive action turned out to be pretty
disastrous, making the error that eventually resulted in Green's departure.
Ashley Cole's attempt to atone for an equally crass mistake resulted in him
turning Serhiy Nazarenko's shot past David James.
And neither Glen Johnson, nor normally rock-solid skipper John Terry were much
better as Capello experienced defeat in a competitive game for the first time.
Along with a few others, it really was not Green's night.
Pelted with flares seconds into the game that resulted in a two-minute hold-up,
Green had barely had a touch when Ferdinand made his aberration.
Prior to only his second competitive start in 12 months, Ferdinand spoke of the
unspoken knowledge that no-one in Capello's squad can feel sure of their place
in South Africa.
In truth, it would be a startling development if the defender did not go.
Yet fitness concerns remain, despite his claim that he is now fully fit.
But neither injury, nor rustiness could be used as an excuse for the rank bad
defending that let Artem Milevskiy charge straight through the heart of
Green came out to confront the striker but only succeeded in sending him
In the confusion that followed referee Damir Skomina initially showed Ferdinand
a red card before finally sending Green on his way.
David James was his replacement, Aaron Lennon the unlucky man replaced.
After just 15 minutes, it was a major disruption Capello could have done
without and the Italian must have had a sense of foreboding as Andriy Shevchenko
strode up to take the spot-kick given the number of times the Ukrainian hero has
scored against him in the past.
Not this time though. This time he smacked the outside of a post to allow
England to continue their dream of completing a perfect qualifying campaign.
For a while, the Three Lions were quite comfortable. They even managed to get
forward on a couple of occasions, Rooney predictably getting through the work of
two men to make up the numbers.
But when Cole also made a needless error close to his own penalty area there
was no reprieve as Milevskiy drove forward before the ball eventually broke to
Nazarenko after Johnson had made a tackle.
On the ground where he plays his club football, Nazarenko let fly with relish.
Cole flung himself at the ball in a bid to make amends. But he could only divert
it into the corner, ending any hope James had of keeping it out.
Cue more flares - and a threat to stop the game, which would actually have been
no bad thing as errors continued to undermine England's hopes of pulling level.
Another Ferdinand blunder almost proved costly when the defender's loose header
fell to the impressive Milevskiy, whose thunderous shot cannoned back off a post
with James hopelessly beaten.
So, while Frank Lampard almost profited from Rooney's astute pass, Capello's
half-time demand was for clearer focus, although the loss of Steven Gerrard at
half-time shut off one obvious avenue of redemption.
Lampard drove a free-kick into the wall when set to do much better and Rooney's
industry almost brought England level near the end in a late surge as Ukraine
But an equaliser would have been unjust given the sheer volume of basic
defensive mistakes, which must have left Capello shell-shocked.
James Milner conceded a corner at the end of a catalogue of clangers, then
James needed to make a feet-first save to deny Andriy Yarmolenko, who had been
put clean through by Yaroslav Rakitskiy.
After the match former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was a pundit during the exclusive internet screening of the game, said the Three Lions were unlucky to lose.
Eriksson said: "It's a pity, because of a couple of mistakes, England had to play with 10 men and were 1-0 down. But in the second half they did excellently and could easily have equalised. Despite being 10 against 11, England were the better side in the second half.
"It was a big, big result for Ukraine - and they were lucky that England didn't score. It was a pity for Green to play so little, but David James showed he is still a good goalkeeper. He made some great saves, still has good reflexes and is a big figure when he stands up."