Early double moves England back to top
Wales 0 England 2
Published 27/03/2011 | 05:00
NO easy games in international football, eh? Perhaps Gareth Bale might have given England something to think about, but without their best player Wales resembled a side giving away more than 100 FIFA world ranking places and still looking for their first win in Euro 2012 qualifying.
Because that is what they are, of course. Even when Bale is fit. "We aren't going to qualify from this group, we're looking to the future," a resigned Gary Speed admitted. "We couldn't get the ball off England in the first half-hour. They played a very high tempo in their pressing, but hopefully we can learn from experiences like this. It was tough to take, but we are not always going to be playing against teams as good as England."
Thank goodness for that. Hopefully this mismatch will have set back the cause of those seeking to restore the home international tournament by a century or more. While the points were useful in taking England back to the top of Group G and repairing some of the damage done by drawing at home with Montenegro, the opposition was so weak there was precious little for Fabio Capello to enthuse about. "Ashley Young was our best player, he has really improved a lot," the England coach said, fairly enough. "Scott Parker was also good, and Jack Wilshere incredible again. He plays like he is 28 or 29, like he has 35 or 40 caps."
All perfectly true, yet the bare fact is that England needed only to play for the first 20 minutes. After that the game was won. The Millennium Stadium crowd did its best, lustily booing the English anthem and attempting to transmit hostility from the terraces, though practically as soon as the match got under way the game was up. Wales allowed John Terry, of all people, to make inroads down their right flank, then after Chris Gunter slipped to turn a decent pass into a dangerous one, James Collins leant on Young to give away the softest of penalties after a mere six minutes.
If Frank Lampard's unflustered conversion quietened the crowd, a sort of embarrassed hush descended eight minutes later when Wales were caught completely cold by Glen Johnson's long ball down the right. Under almost no pressure, Young gathered and centred for Darren Bent to finish crisply and decisively, thoroughly justifying his inclusion as the point of England's attack, and Wales were left with little to look forward to but Brazil 2014.
Speed has been telling people that the next World Cup might be a more realistic target to aim for than the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, and no one could accuse the new Wales manager of pulling the wool over anyone's eyes.
Both England's first two goals came courtesy of Aston Villa, and Young in particular was enjoying one of his most convincing England performances to date. Backed up by Johnson, England's right-side pair found plenty of space to make regular forays forward, and a dipping shot from Young was the closest to a third goal before the interval. Early in the second half Young sent over a cross from the right with which Wayne Rooney only narrowly failed to connect, before somewhat belatedly Wales launched a couple of attacks of their own.
Craig Bellamy had the right idea when he tried to top off a determined run through midfield with a throughball to Andy King; unfortunately he put a fraction too much weight on the pass. King himself then had a shooting chance but was quickly closed down by Ashley Cole and put a hurried effort over the bar.
Little had been seen in the first half of Aaron Ramsey, apart from a couple of misplaced passes he would rather forget, though the new Wales captain showed what he can be capable of on the hour, with an astute ball forward that Steve Morison was not quite quick enough to anticipate.
Ramsey's Arsenal team-mate, Wilshere, had attempted to free Bent with a similar pass a few moments earlier, only for Wayne Hennessey to save at the striker's feet. Wilshere made some bustling runs through midfield, with Parker staying dutifully back in defence, even if his finishing could have been better when Rooney cued him up for a shot and he blazed high and wide.
That turned out to be Rooney's last contribution. After picking up a first-half booking for a bad-tempered foul on Joe Ledley that triggers a one-match suspension, the striker made way for James Milner with 20 minutes left.
Capello claimed Rooney was surprised to discover he had put himself out of the Switzerland game at Wembley in June. The Italian did not himself sound all that surprised, but after a week of captaincy nonsense he was not about to be drawn into another debate about the motives of his players.
Bellamy almost snatched a goal back for Wales at the end but not even that could ruffle Capello's composure. England walks in the park are not to be sniffed at these days, and for once the coach knew there had been no charge to answer. "It is always the same, when we win we are the best and when we lose we are shit," he said, with a smile. "That's my job."
Young, who was named man of the match, said: "The main thing was to get the three points and get back to the top of the group."
Sunday Indo Sport