Wales 0 England 2: Darren Bent seals victory in Cardiff
Aston Villa striker's third England goal adds to Frank Lampard's seventh-minute opener from the spot
He came under fire for controversially reinstating John Terry as captain, but England manager Fabio Capello was also questioned over his choice to persist with Frank Lampard in the build-up to Saturday’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales.
Many believe the Chelsea midfielder has too often failed to perform in an England shirt, but Lampard was on the score sheet just six minutes into the game at the Millennium Stadium after he stepped up to convert a penalty won by Ashley Young to justify his inclusion and reward his manager’s faith.
Wales’s woes were compounded within the first 15 minutes when Darren Bent tapped Young’s low cross past Wayne Hennessey to clinch his third England goal and double the visitors’ lead.
England pressed high up the pitch throughout the first half, allowing their hosts little time and space on the ball.
At times Wales looked to try and break forward but they were often outnumbered by the visitors in the middle of the park, with Scott Parker winning a number of key battles and helping to keep the hosts at bay.
The visitors dominated the possession throughout the first 45 minutes, with Wales rarely allowed any significant period on the ball inside the England half.
The hosts failed to muster a single shot on target during the first half as England restricted Gary Speed’s side to one solitary touch of the ball inside Joe Hart’s penalty area.
And England twice had the chance to extend their lead before the break.
Jack Wilshere first slotted a low ball through to Bent, whose effort was cleared by Hennessey.
And moments later Young, who had played an integral part in the first two goals, fired a shot just over the bar from a well worked England throw-in.
Wales started the second half with promise. Craig Bellamy twice found himself in space and twice tried to play in Andy King, who at the second attempt fired a shot over the bar.
Wales continued to improve as the half went on, pressing the England front line and looking more comfortable at the back and in the middle of the park.
Speed’s men came close to halving England’s lead just before the hour-mark.
A superb passing move led to new skipper Aaron Ramsey finding himself in space before the Arsenal midfielder darted into the box and fired his shot just over the bar.
The hosts continued to threaten, winning a number of corners in quick succession and playing some good passing football.
But England still looked dangerous on the counter, with Ashley Cole breaking forward with just under ten minutes to go before Crofts made a crucial challenge to stop the Chelsea full-back playing in Bent.
England boss Capello was thrilled to see his decision to switch to a 4-3-3 formation pay off. He said: “We played really well, we passed the ball quickly and created chances to score goals with no chances for Wales.
“The goals that we scored were really nice and in every moment we were focussed on the game which was important.
“I decided, after watching games Wales have played, I decided for (Scott) Parker and two midfielders. I decided for a new position for (Wayne) Rooney and Ashley Young.
“When we are defending they stay wide, when we have the ball Wayne comes in and it was a problem for Wales.
“This formation is really good because some players like Ashley Young are improving a lot.”
Wayne Hennessey, Chris Gunter, Danny Collins, D, Andrew Crofts, James Collins, J, Ashley Williams, A, Joe Ledley, Craig Bellamy, Steve Morison (Ched Evans, C, 65), Aaron Ramsey, Andy King (David Vaughan, 65)
Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, G, Ashley Cole, A, Scott Parker (Phil Jagielka, 89), Michael Dawson, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere (Stewart Downing, 82), Darren Bent, Wayne Rooney (James Milner, 70), Ashley Young