- Last Updated: 5:23 PM, June 21, 2012
- Posted: 12:31 AM, June 20, 2012
DONETSK, Ukraine — Only one goal counted, and it belonged to Wayne Rooney.
The England striker returned from a two-match suspension to head in the lone goal yesterday and give his team a 1-0 win over Ukraine and a spot in the European Championship quarterfinals. The co-host Ukrainians, however, will leave the tournament knowing that things could have been different.
Needing a win to advance, the Ukrainians thought they had tied it the 62nd minute when Marko Devic’s deflected shot appeared to loop over the line before it was hooked clear by England defender John Terry. But the goal was not awarded by the referee or his extra assistant, who was half-standing on the field only a few meters from the post.
“The goal that wasn’t given really changed our plan because if it was given, I think the whole game could have looked another way,” Ukraine captain Andriy Shevchenko said through an interpreter.
Although a draw still would have eliminated them, the equalizer would have given the team hope knowing that another goal would put Ukraine through to the quarterfinals.
“I was sad because the ball was in the goal by one meter,” Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin said.
The controversy will likely add to the pressure on UEFA President Michel Platini to reverse his opposition to goal-line technology.
It was Rooney, however, who did manage to put his team on the scoreboard.
England captain Steven Gerrard whipped a cross into the penalty area that glanced off two defenders before Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov let it slip through his hands as he crouched to collect the ball. Rooney was at the far post and made it count.
“I was always putting myself in goalscoring opportunities,” Rooney said. “I could’ve done better with a couple more, but I got the goal and it’s three points.”
The goal was Rooney’s first at a major tournament since scoring four at Euro 2004 as an 18-year-old rising star. He failed to find the net at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, while England failed to even qualify for Euro 2008.
“There was a lot of pressure on Wayne,” Gerrard said. “But he stood up and when we needed him he was there.”
With the victory, England won Group D and will next face Italy in Kiev on Sunday.
At the 2010 World Cup, England midfielder Frank Lampard was denied a goal on a shot that appeared to cross the line that would have leveled the match against Germany at 2-2. England ended up losing 4-1.
“To be successful you need a bit of luck,” Gerrard said. “Two years ago we were unlucky with Frank Lampard and we had to pack our bags.”Follow @NYPostsports