England 1 Wales 0: Five lessons from a dreary affair
What did we learn from England's 1-0 Euro 2012 qualifier victory over Wales at Wembley on Tuesday?
Rio Ferdinand beware
Gary Cahill has been an excellent deputy for the injured Rio Ferdinand and his partnership with captain John Terry is beginning to blossom. England’s 1-0 victory meant Fabio Capello’s team kept successive clean sheets for the first time since the World Cup in South Africa. The Bolton Wanderers defender offers an aerial presence from set pieces, his quick movement compensates for Terry’s diminishing pace and he has shown sensible distribution from the back.
Stewart Downing’s renaissance
Stewart Downing’s return to form with England is in stark contrast to the criticism the former Middleborough captain was subject to under the management of Steve McClaren. The Liverpool midfielder was a constant outlet on Tuesday, offering width on both wings setting up Ashley Young’s winner.
Frank Lampard fails to shine
Capello opted to replace Scott Parker with Frank Lampard for Tuesday’s clash but the Chelsea midfielder was unimpressive. Despite enjoying a more attacking role, with Gareth Barry protecting the England rearguard, Lampard’s passing was sloppy and the 33-year-old failed to test Wayne Hennessey from outside the area.
Capello has built his team into a superb counter-attacking unit, with the electric pace of Downing, Young and Theo Walcott supporting the prolific Wayne Rooney. On their travels, England often reap the rewards against stretched opposition defences and are able to briskly revert from defence to attack, but at Wembley they continue to struggle. Especially in the second half, Capello’s men were lethargic as Gary Speed’s packed midfield proved an immovable obstacle – the Welsh manager’s tactics successfully taming England’s attacking prowess.
Poor Joe Hart
Finally, a word for the most unlucky England player on the pitch on Tuesday. Joe Hart’s horrendous kit was almost as shocking as substitute Robert Earnshaw’s late glaring miss. The goalkeeper’s shirt, seemingly a throwback to the David Seaman Euro 96 collection, was a distracting eyesore throughout. So distracting in fact, that perhaps it played a part in Earnshaw’s horrendous attempt which flew into the stands with the goal gaping.