Sven started with a very strong side tonight, with only David James, Ashley Cole
Sven started with a very strong side tonight, with only David James, Ashley Cole and David Beckham not checking in from Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or Anfield, so you could perhaps have forgiven any fans that might have thought that Sven's men were fortunate to go in at half time with a one goal lead.
Even Sven will have been relieved that David Beckham's penalty, which gave England the advantage as early as ten minutes in to the prodigal son's return, was the only score come the break because Croatia had their chances.
But for David James and the lack of early season sharpness from the Croatian forward line, England could have been behind. However, we weren't.
Had this have been a Premier League performance, let's just say it was Manchester United - who, with five of these players, won the league last season - we would be talking about how the good teams can win even when they are not at their best.
England, with their new-look defence that included John Terry making his full debut, did look a little rusty as a unit. The fact that the back four had never played together before looked fairly evident early on as the communication lines between Rio Ferdinand and Terry were out of tune, but fortunately not as much as the man with the bell and trumpet in the Britannia Stand upper tier.
This was a friendly, though, and the perfect stage for Sven to offer two of the countries finest defenders a chance to gel. Individually, both players showed why they are there and as the game grew older, so their understanding gathered momentum.
The chances the visitors created may have stemmed from the midfield. Name England's best four midfielders and you can't go too far wrong with Sven's pick tonight. The choice of Gerrard, Beckham, Butt and Scholes together would whet anyone's appetite, but, tonight at least, they all wanted to be the general and gave Croatia a chance to attack down the flanks.
The pairing of Olic and Maric linked well to cause problems, but when their efforts weren't woeful, James came to the rescue with the saves. Despite his relegation to Division One last season, the West Ham man is desperate to keep his grip on the England number one shirt and his forty-five minutes in Suffolk can only have helped.
So there's one positive out of a first half that England could have lost - not to mention Becks' goal that made sure we won it.
Afterwards it was better. The only change at the midway point was the promised 'keeper swap, and Paul Robinson appeared from the tunnel having been given the nod. Looking assured throughout, the Yorkshireman will be baffled after conceding during a half in which the Croatian's rarely threatened, not even considering the possible offside.
That goal came late on, by which time Michael Owen had involved himself on the score sheet rising to direct Beckham's delicious centre into the bottom of the net and proved once again that he has everything that is required to score goals. But if one player deserved a goal it was his club mate Emile Heskey who was on excellent form. His direct approach clearly unnerved the Croats. A delightful exchange with Michael Owen sent Emile scurrying towards goal just before half time. His venomous long-range strike was indicative of the instinctive manner of his play on the night.
Defensively too, Heskey was on hand to help out on more than one occasion and his tireless work ended rather disappointingly as he limped off with 15 minutes left.
The final half hour belonged to Chelsea. Joe Cole and Frank Lampard, both on as subs, thrilled this most excitable of crowds even more. Some sublime skills from the younger as he danced his way around the pitch, dazzled the Croatians. Cole came so close to adding a second goal to his England tally, but in this agricultural community on a well-farmed pitch, the ball skimmed agonisingly wide of the post.
Lampard showed his shadow how to find the net sneaking in a beautiful drive 15 minutes later giving England a comfortable 3-1 win. Shortly after, the night became complete for the Blues, who have been criticised for their foreign policy for so long, when John Terry was given the armband to see out the final minutes as England skipper with no Beckham or Gerrard around.
After a tough first half, England deserved their rather extraordinary two-goal victory, and look in good shape for Macedonia and Liechtenstein next month. Confidence should now be very high and Sven's winning streak could well be extended to eight games.
From Jamie Bradbury in Ipswich
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