South Africa v England: Match Centre...Sven's men make their mark in South Africa, winning their first ever match in this country 2-1...
The objective of this historic match for South Africa was to launch their bid to host the 2010 World Cup by proving that they are capable of staging matches of this magnitude.
Given the colour and warmth in which this game was played, they could not have done a better job.
England's goal was to prepare for their forthcoming Euro Qualifier against Slovakia. In recording a victory without overly stretching themselves, the game went very much according to plan for Sven's team too.
Not that they could have expected things to begin quite as well as they did. Remarkably, England were ahead after only 36 seconds. Lucas Radebe, playing his last ever game for South Africa, and keen to impose himself physically on Michael Owen, dragged the England striker down as soon as they came into physical contact. South Africa were made to pay.
Beckham drifted the ball into the near post and Southgate rose at the near post to head home, easy as you like, into the centre of the goal. It may have only been Gareth's second strike for England but it was his second goal in two days. His effort tonight was identical to the one he struck from a Beckham corner in training last night.
Michael Owen could and perhaps should have doubled England's lead after seven minutes. When Baloyi dropped David Beckham's wickedly struck free-kick, Owen pounced only to see his first shot blocked and his second fly over the bar.
South Africa responded in positive fashion. Stanton Fredericks' pace and directness caused us problems down the right flank while Macbeth Sibaya's firm tackles in the midfield reduced England's time and options on the ball.
In the end the pressure told. On 18 minutes Scholes pass was blocked and the ball was fed forward to Charlton striker Shaun Bartlett. He rolled it out to Delron Buckley over-lapping on the left who whipped in a cross striking Danny Mills' hand on its way in and the referee, maybe a little harshly, awarded a penalty and brandished his yellow card.
Benni McCarthy, once a target of Middlesbrough, made no mistake with a crisp spot-kick that was just too far from the reach of David James' right hand dive.
Springing forward without concern, flamboyant and skilful in possession, South Africa were a joy to watch when they were in full flow. It was not just exhibition stuff either, they were hurting England as well as delighting their fans. By contrast England seemed to lack a little zest and energy. Understandable, perhaps, when you consider the hectic schedule that these players have been through over the last few days.
Beckham, Gerrard and Mills all fired in efforts but generally it was the hosts that were dictating the first half action. England's best hope appeared to be Baloyi's far from secure handling. The South African 'keeper seemed unable to claim the ball cleanly. It soon came back to haunt the hosts.
After a slow start to the second period it was that defensive South African susceptibility which allowed England to retake the lead. Substitute Frank Lampard collected the ball from Gerrard and strode forward before unleashing a swirling drive from 25 yards. Baloyi could only present the ball to Heskey who gleefully tucked the rebound home.
While Heskey then went off to be substituted, Lampard stayed on and his passing, tacking and running with the ball were all of a very high standard. He might even have had a second with another determined surge into the box.
Whether or not Scholes and Gerrard can be replaced as Sven's first choice midfield pairing remains to be seen but Lampard was England's most impressive performer tonight and that cannot have escaped the coach's notice.
As the game drew to a close, substitutions became more prevalent than shots. England captain David Beckham was withdrawn with a wrist injury that required an x-ray while Stanton Fredericks' hamstring strain robbed the game of its most lively performer.
It's fair to say that England have played better under Sven - not least in their last outing against Turkey. But winning is a habit and, if you can do it playing against a team desperate to impress on one of the biggest nights in their history when you yourself are not at your very best, then all the better.
For South Africa this game was about proving they are ready for 2010.
Yet, with Joe Cole (21), Darius Vassell (22), Jermaine Jenas (20), Gareth Barry (22), Paul Robinson (23) and Michael Owen (23) all taking part tonight, you could just say the same for England.
From Daniel Freedman at the ABSA Stadium, Durban.
Baloyi, Mabizela, Molefe, A Mokoena, Radebe (c), Sibaya, T Mokoena, Fredericks (Mazibuko, 77), Buckley, Bartlett, McCarthy (Manyathela, 68)
Subs: Lekgwathi, Evans, Coyle, Mendu, Khanyeza, Josephs
David James (Paul Robinson, 45), Danny Mills, Phil Neville, Steven Gerrard (Gareth Barry, 81), Rio Ferdinand (Matthew Upson, 45), Gareth Southgate, David Beckham (c) (Jermaine Jenas, 51), Paul Scholes (Joe Cole, 75), Emile Heskey (Darius Vassell 65), Michael Owen, Trevor Sinclair (Frank Lampard, 58)
Subs: Ian Walker
Referee: Lim Kee Chong (Mauritius)
Assistants: Mr. I Juggunath and Mr. R Ramphul (Mauritius)
Match Related Items: