England V Wales
6 Sep 2011 - 7:45 PM
England took a step closer to securing their place at the European Championship Finals in their final qualifying game at Wembley on Tuesday night, but were made to work hard for the victory by a resilient Welsh side.
It was a far from spectacular game for the near 80,000 crowd at Wembley, but with the all-important win secured by Ashley Young’s first-half goal, Fabio Capello’s men now know that they travel to Montenegro next month with qualification in their own hands and with a first win in five at Wembley.
Whilst the performance may not have been as flowing as Capello would’ve liked, he will have been pleased with the way his side ground out the win after being given few opportunities to play by the visiting side.
In the opening stages, John Terry headed wide from a Young corner in the eighth minute as England looked to make early headway just as they did in Cardiff five months ago.
Wales then had a similar chance at the other end four minutes later when dangerman Gareth Bale swung a free-kick into the box for Ashley Williams, but he could only head wide of the target.
There wasn’t a great deal of goalmouth action in the opening exchanges though and it wasn’t until the 28th minute before anyone came close again, when Stewart Downing acrobatically volleyed over the bar from Young’s cross.
With the visitors pressing England all over the pitch, it wasn’t proving easy for the Three Lions to unlock the Welsh defence, but Gary Speed’s side could do nothing to stop the deadlock being broken ten minutes before half-time. The goal came when Downing did superbly to waltz past Joe Ledley on the right before pulling a precise ball back to Young, who made no mistake by striking a first-time shot into the bottom corner and giving Wayne Hennessey no chance.
It was almost 2-0 four minutes later when Young combined with James Milner to take a quick corner-kick and then delivered a pacy cross into the box which Wayne Rooney glanced just wide in what turned out to be the last opportunity of the first half.
The second-half started in much the same vein as the first period, with England controlling possession but just unable to find a telling pass and apart from Young forcing Hennessey into a smart save at his near post seconds after the re-start, it was a case of trying to break down Wales to find a killer second goal.
They nearly did that just after the hour mark too, when Milner committed two defenders before setting up Frank Lampard on the edge of the area only for the Chelsea man to shoot over the bar.
As the game progressed though, Wales started to show more of an attacking intent and with substitute Robert Earnshaw offering a different sort of threat to former England C man Steve Morison with his movement, they really should have been level in the 77th minute with what was the clearest chance of the game for them.
Ledley swung a deep ball into the area from the left and when Darcy Blake knocked it back across from the far post, it picked out Earnshaw inside the six yard box with the goal at his mercy. He looked odds-on to equalise, but got his left-footed shot horribly wrong and lifted the ball over the bar and with that any hopes that his side had.
Wales actually began to play more expansively in the last 15 minutes and posed one or two problems for the England back-line but they had left it too late to really trouble the Three Lions, who professionally played the game out to secure the points and hopefully a path to Poland and Ukraine next summer.