VIDEO: Gerrard fires England to victory
Wednesday, 11 August, 2010
Captain's brace seals second half comeback at Wembley.
Nicholas Veevers at Wembley Stadium
Click here to watch the highlights of the game.
England got back to winning ways at Wembley, as captain Steven Gerrard fired them to victory over Hungary to put any World Cup disappointment to bed and act as an undoubted boost ahead of next month’s European Championship qualifiers.
Fabio Capello’s men had to do it the hard way though, after falling behind to a controversial Hungarian opener from Vladimir Koman which didn’t appear to fully cross the line.
But Gerrard settled the frustrations of fans and players alike with a quick-fire brace to leave another impressive turn-out of England fans happy with their evening’s entertainment by full-time.
Capello will also have been pleased with the performances of several players who were handed their first starts, such as Joe Hart and Adam Johnson whilst second half debutants Bobby Zamora and Kieran Gibbs also impressed and will give the Manager food for thought ahead of September’s double-header against Bulgaria and Switzerland.
England will have been pleased with their start to the game too, as the visitors hardly had a kick within the first two minutes of the match as the Three Lions kept some good possession. They even had the ball in the net after less than three minutes when Adam Johnson slipped a pass through for Wayne Rooney, but a late offside flag saw that effort ruled out.
At the other end, Hart was forced into his first save in the fifth minute, but it was a relatively straightforward catch to keep Akos Elek’s header out.
England really should have been ahead in the 13th minute though, when a quick interchange of passes between Theo Walcott and Glen Johnson on the right saw the Arsenal man break clear into the area. He looked up, before picking out Adam Johnson 12 yards in front of goal. It was perfectly set up for him, but the Manchester City ace put too much power into his shot and saw the chance fly high over the bar.
After that first flurry from England over the first 15 minutes or so, Hungary began to find their feet a little and managed to slow the tempo somewhat. That certainly suited them, and Sandor Egervari’s team started to express themselves whilst primarily still looking to hit England on the break, but they rarely troubled Hart.
It was still England doing most of the pressing and Gabor Kiraly was forced into an acrobatic tip-over in the 34th minute to deny Gerrard a goal from a free-kick on the left hand side of the area.
Hungary’s resilience at the back was proving tough for England to break down though and Rooney showed his frustration just before the break when he attempted a 35-yard shot following a good piece of skill to sidestep Krisztian Vadocz. Unfortunately, his effort struck a defender’s leg in front of goal and the danger was duly cleared.
Capello made four changes at the break with Gibbs, Zamora, Michael Dawson and Ashley Young all introduced and they were certainly afforded a warm reception from the Wembley crowd.
Young in particular caught the eye in the opening exchanges of the second half, seeing plenty of the ball on the left flank before flashing a dangerous ball across the face of goal in the 51st minute, which was just inches in front of Zamora.
The substitutions had livened England up, with Zamora proving more of a physical presence up front alongside Rooney, and Johnson and Young either side of them looking to provide extra cutting edge. Johnson’s ability to cut in from right was causing Hungary problems and he saw another effort saved by Kiraly just short of the hour mark as England continued to probe.
It was Hungary who took the lead in controversial fashion and against the run of play though. A ball through the middle saw captain Zoltan Gera take advantage of a slip from Dawson and when he played in substitute Koman, his shot flew past Hart and towards goal. However, Dawson had quickly recovered and cleared the ball off the line with the help of Gibbs. The Hungarians appealed, the referee’s assistant flagged and the goal was awarded, although television replays appeared to show that the whole ball hadn’t crossed the line.
With frustration growing around Wembley both off and on the pitch, England made the perfect response and were back level less than ten minutes later with Gerrard the catalyst and finisher of the move.
Picking the ball up in midfield, he found Gibbs on the left, before possession was returned to him just outside the area. Hungary barely had time to close him down before Gerrard struck a fierce right-footer which had Kiraly beaten from the moment it left his boot and nestled in the corner of the net.
That was just what England needed. It gave the team that added zip and confidence and less than five minutes later, they had the lead. Again it was Gerrard who led by example.
Collecting a pass from Young inside the area, he looked outnumbered by red shirts. But after twisting one way and then another to skip over the challenge of two Hungarian defenders, he found himself with just Kiraly to beat. From a tight angle, he slotted home with the outside of his boot to turn the crowd’s previous frustration into elation.
It could have been 3-1 moments later, when Zamora flashed a fierce half-volley at goal. It had Kiraly back-pedalling and he appeared to have tipped the shot over but the officials only saw fit to award a goal-kick. A fine attempt by the Fulham man all the same.
Gerrard received a hero’s reception when he was taken off with ten minutes to go, whilst there was just as much enthusiasm for his replacement in another debutant Jack Wilshere.
The scoreline could’ve been even higher in England’s favour too, as Kiraly pulled off two fine saves to deny both Johnson and Zamora in the later stages.
Hungary also threw men forward in a bid to find an equaliser and the closest they came was through Gera who broke clear in the 89th minute only to see his low shot well saved by the legs of Hart in what proved to be their last chance.
All in all, a draw would probably have flattered the visitors but for Capello and his squad they can now use the spirit and determination shown here to their advantage when the serious business begins in less than a month.