Three Lions ease to victory over Wales
Saturday, 26 March, 2011
Frank Lampard and Darren Bent goals do the damage in the first half.
by Nicholas Veevers at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
England got their European Championship qualifying campaign back on track in Cardiff, where two first-half goals from Frank Lampard and Darren Bent proved enough to see off a spirited Wales team.
The Three Lions restored their place at the top of Group G, with what was their game-in-hand on Montenegro and it was a controlled and competitive display from Fabio Capello’s men against a team that never gave up throughout the game.
With Scott Parker brought in to the team to play a deep-lying midfield role, that allowed Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard the freedom to move forward and link with the likes of Darren Bent in front of them and Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young to either side of them.
Parker was everywhere in his own half, picking up loose balls, gaining possession and feeding his team-mates whilst offering an outlet for the defenders.
Likewise, Wilshere played a similar role further forward and it gave England a more penetrative look in general as they kept possession comfortably across the back and through the middle.
England got themselves ahead early on too, which no doubt helped settle a few nerves. The opening came in the sixth minute, when captain John Terry strode forward with the ball from defence and traded passes with Ashley Cole, before feeding Young on the edge of the area. The Aston Villa man turned sharply into the box before James Collins crudely hacked him down to leave the referee with little option but to point to the spot. Lampard stepped up and made no mistake, sending Wayne Hennessey the wrong way and smashing into the bottom left corner.
A second goal followed soon after, as the Three Lions caught the Welsh defence out with two clinical passes from back to front. With Glen Johnson in possession inside his own half, there seemed little danger until the Liverpool man fizzed the ball down the line to Young. He skipped past Danny Collins and placed a perfect cross into the middle for Bent, who fired emphatically into the roof of the net to put his side firmly in control.
After a fiery and passionate opening, the home crowd had been well and truly silenced, allowing England to dictate the tempo of the play which is exactly what Capello would have wanted.
Wales were struggling to create any real opportunities from open play and it was no surprise that a set-piece forced Joe Hart into his first meaningful action of the game in the 35th minute, after Lampard fouled Steve Morison midway into the England half. Craig Bellamy played a dangerous ball towards James Collins in the area, but Hart was out quickly to punch clear whilst under pressure from the big defender.
The only real negative from the first-half as far as England were concerned was the caution received by Rooney for a foul on Joe Ledley, which will see the Manchester United man ruled out of the next qualifier against Switzerland.
Wales came out after the break with renewed vigour, and they had a half-chance ten minutes after the re-start when a raking cross-field pass from Bellamy found Andy King making pace on the right. He controlled the ball well, but could only fire his shot high and wide of the target.
They had an even better opportunity on the hour mark when Ledley fed a pass into Morison in the area. The former England C striker was in space, but his poor control let him down and allowed Terry the chance to make a saving tackle.
King then fired over the bar again, after skilfully working some space for himself on the edge of the box in what was proving to be the hosts’ best spell of the match.
Despite a string of corners though, they never really troubled Hart too much as England comfortably saw out the game to pick up the three points they had targeted back across the border.