England 1-0 Wales

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By website-sport on 8.9.2023

England 1-0 Wales

England moved within a point of Euro qualification with an uninspiring display that nevertheless proved enough to secure a 1-0 win against Wales at Wembley.

Ashley Young scored the decisive goal after 35 minutes converting a simple opportunity created by Stewart Downing’s pull back. Yet the 3 points they earned came courtesy of Wales’ inability to convert their chances rather than any significant dominance or control shown by England. In truth, it was Robert Earnshaw who won the game for Fabio Capello’s men when he squandered an easy chance to draw level late on.

For the 77,000 in attendance the hope was that England could produce an assured and confident display to build on from their 3-0 win against Bulgaria, a performance that had prompted Capello to suggest that both he and his players had finally struck a level of understanding. However, this new found coherency failed to materialise on the pitch as England scarcely troubled Wales, who for spells, and without suspended striker Craig Bellamy, looked the better side.

Two changes to the England squad since their victory in Sofia saw James Milner replace Theo Walcott, who was not risked due to a slight hamstring problem, as well as Frank Lampard’s return to the starting 11 in place of Scott Parker. Neither could do much to influence the game although they were not alone as much of the first half seemed to pass England by.

Aside from John Terry heading wide and Stewart Downing’s skewed volley, Wales Keeper Wayne Hennessey must have felt as if he was on paid vacation as England struggled to get beyond opposition’s defence. It was on one of these rare occasions that the deadlock was broken, Downing beating his man on the left before pulling back a low cross for Ashley Young who made no mistake from 6 yards out.

For those who hoped that the goal would relax England into some sort of rhythm, they were to be disappointed. As the second half progressed Wales showed they were capable of matching England, and at times looked more likely to find the net. This was no more the case than when Darcy Blake’s knockdown made it’s way across the face of goal towards Earnshaw who, to the obvious disappointment of the Wales bench, hit his shot high of the goal from close range.

A leveller would have delivered a fair result on the night and it was a poor miss that Wales probably deserved to convert. After coming good on manager Gary Speed’s pre-match promise of a more organisation and resilience, Wales can take heart from a very different performance from that which saw them tamely loose the reverse fixture in Cardiff.

As for England, they now only need a draw in their final qualification match against second placed Montenegro in order to qualify top of the group, and, as Capello pointed out after the match, the result is more important that the performance. However, the way in which England went about the task will not inspire much confidence that they will be able to trouble the cream of Europe come summer 2012.


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