England defeated Norway for the first time in 32 years last night with an early goal by Ashley Young, but turned in a performance defined by determination rather than any flair.
After Young's well-taken effort, when put through by Andy Carroll, they played largely on the counter-attack against a toothless Norway side. There was a late injury scare to add to Roy Hodgson's problems when Gareth Barry, a second-half substitute for Steven Gerrard, limped off with a groin strain which will require a scan today. Glen Johnson and Danny Welbeck already face a test of their fitness tomorrow before Tuesday's deadline for naming European Championship squads.
"I'm not prepared to say it's serious but it'll demand our attention and we don't have a lot of time," Hodgson said of Barry's problem after his first match as England's 13th full-time manager. It was not the most exciting start and he admitted England will need to improve in an attacking sense, even if he was justifiably pleased with them defensively.
"I thought we showed a lot of discipline and worked very hard," Hodgson said. "We weren't as good going forward as we hope to be and the fatigue factor played a part. But I'm not prepared to be critical of the team or our play."
Some of the 2,000 England fans, who had been forced to pay a minimum of £65 for their tickets, sounded as though they were not overly impressed with the experience or the performance. They chanted "Norway's expensive/I want to go home" and marked Eurovision Song Contest night with a rendition of Englebert Humperdink's 'Please Release Me'.
Hodgson has been in the job only 26 days, as opposed to the veteran Norway manager Egil Olsen, who has taken them into the top two dozen of Fifa's world rankings.
There were late debuts as for Arsenal's 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the Liverpool right back Martin Kelly.Reuse content