Just as he remains bemused by the hoo-hah about who wears a captain's armband, so Fabio Capello must wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to home internationals. Led to believe that his first British derby would mean confronting a red dragon spitting fire, he found the opposition resembling a lap-dog not even capable of heavy breathing.
Wales, who have not scored a goal against England for 27 years, did not manage a shot on target and, worse, conceded two in the first quarter of an hour, when Frank Lampard's penalty and Darren Bent's tap-in effectively killed the game. It could only have staggered back to life if Gary Speed's team had broken the long duck since Mark Hughes scored at Wrexham in 1984, but with John Terry celebrating his return to the captaincy in commanding form, there was never much likelihood of that. The home side improved a little in the second half, which was not difficult, without ever threatening Joe Hart in the England goal.
Apparently forced to choose two from Lampard, Jack Wilshere and Scott Parker, Capello sprang a surprise by picking all three, which worked out perfectly. Parker sat in front of the back four as a shield and suddenly looked the natural heir to the unfortunate Owen Hargreaves. The other pair were therefore able to push forward a little more, as suits them both. Ashley Young was rewarded for a good performance in the last game away to Denmark with selection instead of James Milner and justified it by tormenting the vulnerable Welsh full-backs and setting up both goals.
If there was one disappointment it was Wayne Rooney, playing out wide, who faded after a bustling beginning and collected a yellow card which he had apparently not realised debars him from the final qualifying match of the season, at home to Switzerland. It could be argued that having scored one goal in his last 15 internationals he will not be missed as much as would once have seemed likely.
Once that game is over, England should have consolidated their position at the head of Group G. They will need at the very least to avoid defeat by Montenegro next season, having been held to a goalless draw by them at Wembley, but fears of Capello missing out on qualification before he walks away at the end of the campaign have been eased by this result.
Characteristically, he refused yesterday evening to see it as any vindication of himself. "No. Why?" he asked cryptically. "It's my job." This, he agreed, was a job well done, especiallyin the crucial early period. "For 30 minutes we played very well. We pressed, won the ball back quickly and the movement was really good. Then we played more possession [football] but still created some chances." Not generally a manager to pick out individuals, he name-checked Parker and Young, while agreeing, with a smile, that there was not much more to be said about the precocious Wilshere.
Young, in particular, benefited from the absence of Gareth Bale, which detracted as much from the occasion as every Welshman must have feared. Without him to rampage down the left, and Leicester's Andy King forced to play there in an unfamiliar role, Glen Johnson and Young had the freedom of the flank. Speed, overseeing his second match since succeeding John Toshack in charge – the first was a 3-0 defeat by the Republic of Ireland – was forced to look far into the future to take any positives from the occasion, other than the way his team "kept trying to play" in the second half. "We're a young developing team and to lose a goal in the first five minutes was very tough," he said. To have the deficit worsened so soon made it doubly so.
Speed did not argue with the penalty awarded by the Portuguese referee in England's first seriousattack, when Terry, in an attacking position on the left, found Young, who was bundled over by his Aston Villa team-mate James Collins. Lampard took one of his better England penalties, low to the goalkeeper's right.
Wales and their briefly raucous supporters in a crowd of almost 70,000 were still in shock when Johnson's fine pass down the right sent Young away to cross for Bent to tap in from a few yards. And after that, not much happened. The home side took 53 minutes to muster a shot. Rooney, having been rightly booked for crude fouls, and having forgotten about his booking against Montenegro, was the only person surprised when Capello replaced him with James Milner.
Bent might have expected to see his number held up about the same time, but Andy Carroll will have to wait until Tuesday's friendly against Ghana to add to his one cap, when the whole team may be changed.
Referee: Olegario Benquerenca (Portugal)
Man of the match: Parker
Match rating: 6/10
Man for man marking
Wayne Hennessey 6/10
Had little chance with either of the England goals, but perhaps decided too soon to go left for Lampard's penalty kick. Oddly, had few saves to make despite the amount of possession enjoyed by the opposition.
Chris Gunter 6/10
With Ashley Cole and, often, Wayne Rooney running at him on England's left, this was a hard afternoon for the full-back. Improved after a shaky start. Rarely ventured forward.
James Collins 6/10
The awkward collision and tangle of legs with Ashley Young and consequent penalty got his side off to the worst possible start, but the mistake didn't unnerve the centre-back. However, the partnership with Ashley Williams does not look the soundest.
Ashley Williams 6/10
The ease with which balls were threaded between the Welsh centre-backs, and between Williams and his left-back Collins, ought to have brought England further reward. Improved after the break.
Danny Collins 5/10
Endured a difficult match. Positionally, not a day to remember, with the left-back caught out several times, most disastrously for England's second goal. Often either outpaced or out of place.
Andrew Crofts 6/10
Worked hard but was generally over-run by the superior England midfield, his frustration showing in a tackle on Jack Wilshere that earned a booking in the 55th minute.
Aaron Ramsey 7/10
Tried hard to impose himself on the game but was largely outnumbered and outplayed in midfield. One moment, around the 26th minute, summed up the captain's task as first Scott Parker, then Wilshere and Rooney harassed him from an attacking position back to a defensive one. The Arsenal man began to find a little more space in the second half, one run past Terry ended with a shot that flew yards wide.
Joe Ledley 6/10
After a fairly anonymous first period the energetic Welsh midfielder was more involved in the second, but like too many of his team-mates he was wholly unable to get an effective grip on the match. A booking for dissent after failing to win a free-kick was the measure of his frustration.
Andy King 6/10
Another Welsh midfielder who had a poor first half but perked up in the second, King began to push up on his side's right flank, giving Cole something to think about. A rare shot was very wide of the target.
Craig Bellamy 7/10
As one of Wales' more experienced players, one of genuine Premier quality to boot, a great deal of responsibility rested on Bellamy but he only revealed his class in the briefest of bursts. An early spot of pushing and shoving with Cole promised one of his fieriest performances, but he really only flickered. Switching flanks brought no greater reward; Wales' afternoon was summed up when, having won their first corner after 73 minutes, Bellamy sent it out for an England throw-in on the opposite side of the pitch. Seemed to be booked for a comment made to Wilshere as the England man was substituted.
Steve Morison 6/10
A thankless task for the lone striker. The Millwall forward received little service, almost no support, and when he did beat Michael Dawson, Terry was there to block further progress.
David Vaughan On for King just past the hour and was the busiest and most useful of their replacements, and also got booked.
Ched Evans On for Morison, and got just as little service or support.
Joe Hart 6/10
A spectator for most of the first half, the Manchester City goalkeeper was decisive when facing the one moment of danger after Frank Lampard's foul on Steve Morison gave Wales the first chance to launch a ball into the England penalty area. He met it with an emphatic punch that sent the ball almost to the halfway line. Slightly busier in the second half, but apart from another strong punch and watching a Craig Bellamy shot swerve wide, had little to do.
Glen Johnson 7/10
Without the challenge of coping with the injured Gareth Bale, the right-back had a relatively easy afternoon and was able to join the attack at will, particularly in the first half of utter England domination. Set up the second goal with a precise ball into the copious acreage behind the Welsh left-back Danny Collins. Booked late on as the game petered out.
Michael Dawson 6/10
A quiet match mopping up what little danger got past the England midfielder and his centre-back partner John Terry. The one moment of peril came when the Spurs defender was too easily turned by Morison, but the danger was quickly snuffed out.
John Terry 7/10
Dare one say it – something of a captain's performance. Booed from the start, a noise soon silenced by England's total control of proceedings. To pour salt into Welsh wounds, Terry was at the heart of the move that saw the visitors take the lead. A neat one-two with Ashley Cole, a deft pass in to Ashley Young, and James Collins' clumsy tackle followed by Lampard's cool penalty kick did the rest.
Ashley Cole 7/10
A feisty exchange with a fired-up Bellamy in the opening minutes promised a physical contest from the Welsh which never materialised. Had the measure of Bellamy, who after about 30 disheartening minutes switched wings. Defensively untroubled, one sliding first-half interception of a Bellamy pass stands out. Could have made more impact as an attacking force against a poor side.
Scott Parker 7/10
Last started an England match in October 2006, the West Ham man brought his good club form in East London to the Millennium Stadium as, playing the deeper holding role in the midfield four, he snuffed out the potential for danger promised by the great Welsh hope, Aaron Ramsey. Stuck to defensive duties so conscientiously that he had little occasion to make a telling impact in the opposition's half.
Jack Wilshere 7/10
England's attacks picked up pace when the Arsenal midfielder had the ball but in this match the final ball was not quite there. One first-half run and slide-rule pass split the Welsh defence and was just a shade too strong for Darren Bent; he repeated the trick in the second half. Replaced by Stewart Downing for the final 10 minutes.
Frank Lampard 7/10
Took the penalty for England's first goal calmly, putting the ball to Wayne Hennessey's right as the goalkeeper dived left, and although perhaps lacking a little of the driving dynamism of old nonetheless kept the England motor running. One other free-kick was easily fielded by Hennessey.
Ashley Young 8/10
Preferred to James Milner and Aaron Lennon to give England a threat on the flanks, the Aston Villa flyer justified his selection by proving instrumental in both goals, drawing the foul for the penalty, and losing his full-back and crossing perfectly for Bent to lash inthe second.
Wayne Rooney 7/10
A provider rather than finisher in this formation, Rooney ranged to left and right flanks, one 60-yard crossfield pass, from virtually the halfway line to Bent on the edge of the penalty area sticks in the mind. Booked after two silly tackles in quick succession. Misses next match against Switzerland.
Darren Bent 7/10
Found space easily to take his goal with a crisp and emphatic confidence, and might have had another goal had he read a pass from Wilshere sooner or showed better control when collecting a Rooney pass.
James Milner On for Rooney for final 20 minutes.
Stewart Downing On for Wilshere, cut in from left to fire only narrowly wide.
Phil Jagielka On for Parker for last five minutes.
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