By Nicholas Veevers at Wembley Stadium
Click here to watch highlights of England's 3-1 victory on FATV.
Wembley saw off England in the best manner possible on Monday, with The Three Lions clocking up a sound win against World Cup competitors Mexico in an entertaining 'Tickets For Troops International' encounter.
Whilst the scoreline may have flattered The Three Lions slightly, it was the manner in which they despatched of lively opposition in the shape of fellow Finalists Mexico that will have pleased Manager Fabio Capello the most.
Backed by a sell-out crowd, who forged a formidable sight in white and red t-shirts to give their team the perfect backing, England thanked them in the best way possible for their support and will now head back to the mountains of Austria to continue their preparations for South Africa, with Sunday’s game against Japan being the last occasion in which Capello will be able to gauge his side in action.
He was certainly given food for thought by some of the performances here, with Ledley King in particular marking his first international appearance since 2007 with a goal and a typically rock-steady performance whilst it was a competent display all-round from his team-mates.
Mexico certainly looked like they could cause a few problems for teams in the World Cup though, and they should have taken the lead less than five minutes into the game when Guillermo Franco spun well on the edge of the area only to blast his shot high and wide of the target when he really should’ve worked his West Ham United team-mate Rob Green.
Five minutes later they had an even better chance when Ricardo Osorio teased Leighton Baines before skipping past him and drilling a fine cross into the area, which was somehow missed by everyone and eventually cleared by Glen Johnson on the far side of the area.
It was England who took the lead after 17 minutes though, somewhat against the run of play. The chance came when Mexico conceded a needless corner, thanks mainly to the persistence of Baines in hassling Osorio. Steven Gerrard, complete with a head bandage due to an earlier clash of heads, swung the flag-kick to the far post for Peter Crouch and when he nodded the ball back into the six yard box, King was there to head home his first goal for England since early 2004.
Wayne Rooney then majestically turned Osorio on the half way line before bearing down on goal. With no-one else in support, he had to go it alone and was only denied a shooting opportunity by a finely timed tackle in the area from Francisco Rodriguez.
England’s lead was kept in tact with the half-hour mark approaching by Green, who made a decent save to deny Carlos Vela. It was a swift break by the Mexicans, with Giovani Dos Santos beating Baines to a loose ball and breaking clear of the defence. He then squared a pass to the Arsenal man, but Green was out quickly to block his low shot.
They came even close just a minute later, when the ball was worked across the area to Carlos Salcido but his curling shot clipped the outside of the post and bounced wide.
Again, they were made to pay, as England punished them with a second goal in the 34th minute. Another corner from Gerrard on the left saw Rooney’s header pushed onto the bar by goalkeeper Oscar Perez, only for it to bounce down into the path of Crouch who chested home from a matter of inches.
If England thought it was going to be plain sailing from there, they were wrong and Mexico pulled a deserved goal back just seconds before the break. A corner from the right picked out Rafael Marquez in space and his powerful header was blocked on the line by Baines, but only as far as Franco who knocked the ball home from two yards out to give his side some hope for the second half.
However, their hard work was undone less than two minutes after the re-start as England increased their advantage with a third goal of the highest quality. It started on the right flank and when Theo Walcott flicked the ball to Johnson, he cut inside two men and brushed past a further two challenges en route to the penalty area, before curling a fine shot with his left foot past Perez and into the top corner.
Mexico still wouldn’t give up and came within a whisker of pulling a goal back when Dos Santos’ wicked chipped cross just skipped ahead of Vela from close range. Pablo Barrera then stung the hands of substitute goalkeeper Joe Hart with a sharp strike from the edge of the box, but again it was England who came closer when Gerrard saw a free-kick from 19 yards out roll agonisingly wide of the post after Jermain Defoe had been barged over.
Rooney then saw a fine effort headed off the line by Marquez, when a Perez clearance was scuffed straight at him. The striker picked the ball up and chipped the absent goalkeeper but Marquez had been alert enough to cover and Rooney was denied.
That was as close as they came though, and after three minutes of added time, the final whistle sounded to allow the players a chance to thank the home fans for their support one final time before the summer's World Cup trip to South Africa.