Barry's header beats Sweden
England 1 Sweden 0
Tuesday 15 November 2011
England completed an unbeaten 2011 in satisfactory style by ending their 43-year wait for a victory over Sweden.
A deflected first-half Gareth Barry header proved enough to secure the win, in addition to becoming England's landmark 2,000th goal.
It was the first time the Three Lions have gone through an entire year without losing since 1996, or 1994 if you include that heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Germany at Euro 96.
However, Fabio Capello will be wary about reading too much into the triumph given how much club combat his players must slog their way through before arriving in Poland and Ukraine.
The pity was only 48,876 - the first sub-50,000 crowd at Wembley since 1998 - were there to see starring performances from Stewart Downing, Phil Jones, and official man-of-the-match Kyle Walker.
Of all the players who could have been credited with England's winner, Celtic defender Daniel Majstorovic was an unlikely candidate.
Yet, as 'own goals' would be fourth on the all-time list, maybe it was actually quite fitting the Sweden defender turned Stewart Downing's curling cross into his own net after leaping with Gareth Barry - denying the Manchester City midfielder his third international goal on his 50th appearance.
It took the 'og' tally to 43 and provided adequate reward for an opening period which flickered brightly at times without being able to maintain the glare.
Phil Jones came closest.
There are plenty who argue the Manchester United youngster should be starting in his preferred central defensive position.
Others, Capello presumably among them, argue he is of more use to England in a midfield holding role at present, especially against opposition where two are required, such as Saturday's visitors Spain.
Sweden are not in that class, which meant Jones had some latitude to get forward, which he did five minutes before the break.
Collecting Bobby Zamora's lay-off, the 19-year-old embarked on a searing run, straight through the heart of Sweden's defence.
It was the kind of surge a watching Roy Keane used to make in his pomp. And why Jones has been compared to Duncan Edwards. All it lacked was the finish, which he flicked an inch wide of the post.
On England's next attack, they carved out an even better chance. The architect this time was Downing, one of Capello's fringe men to impress.
The Liverpool player picked out Everton's Jack Rodwell with a superb cross into the Sweden box. Rodwell climbed highest, but did not require the angle he put onto the ball, so instead of it heading straight into the goal, it thudded against a post and bounced to safety.
Prompting it all at the back was Terry.
On his first England appearance since racism allegations, which he strenuously denied, were levelled against him, the Chelsea skipper's name was read out to a mixed reception prior to kick-off.
He was not entirely foot perfect either early on, although by the break Terry had recovered his composure, helping to ensure Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed at half-time having made little impact and keeping English fans in the dark about why he is rated so highly by Capello, and so many others.
Not that it was of much significance to Daniel Sturridge, who became the third new cap of this double-header, although - initially at least - it seemed he was trying a bit too hard to reproduce his club form.
Downing was significantly more effective, producing quite possibly his best performance for England overall.
He set up Zamora, whose goalbound shot was turned away by Jonas Olsson, and although his drive into the area was not quite as eye-catching as Jones' had been earlier, it brought another decent save from Isaksson.
Introduced for Joe Hart at half-time for his first Wembley appearance since that calamitous night against Croatia that ended Steve McClaren's brief tenure, Scott Carson narrowly avoided conceding another humiliating goal when he scrambled back to claw away Sebastian Larsson's 50-yard cross-shot from underneath the crossbar.
England had one more scare to overcome as they nearly paid the price for switching off in the drab final stages as Christian Wilhelmsson volleyed over from eight yards despite being completely unmarked.
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