For a second-rate, waste-of-time, what-are-we-doing-here friendly bereft of the A-list players in Fabio Capello's squad, this match was not a bad evening's entertainment at all. Or could it be that those who complained that Capello and the Football Association had callously short-changed the paying public by sending home Wayne Rooney early got their call badly wrong?
At the end of 93 minutes, two goals – including Andy Carroll's first for England – and two England international debuts, the value of this game was patently clear. The magnificent 20,000 Ghana fans at Wembley were going nuts celebrating Asamoah Gyan's deserved injury-time equaliser. Meanwhile, Capello had glimpsed the future of England and declared that he liked what he saw.
This was a great friendly match, one of the best the new stadium has seen, and in front of 80,102 people who kept the faith that the brightest young team in Africa against the promising next generation of English players might just produce a few moments of interest. It did not disappoint. England played their best football in the first half, including Carroll's goal, before Ghana came back after the break.
There was another masterclass from Jack Wilshere and Ashley Young's best performance in 14 England caps. There were debuts for Matt Jarvis and Danny Welbeck, only called into the squad yesterday but, Capello later said, a player he had marked out as one for the future long ago. Welbeck was not capped, Capello said, because the Manchester United man, on-loan at Sunderland, has Ghanaian heritage.
Under Fifa rules a friendly cap would not necessarily preclude Welbeck from playing for Ghana but Capello talked about him in such glowing terms that it would be hard for him to switch sides now. Funnily enough, if Capello had played this team in the Hungary friendly in August right after the World Cup he would have been praised for axing the team everyone was cheesed off with. Seven months on and you can feel the wind of change rustling through this side.
The 4-3-3 formation that was built around Scott Parker in Cardiff on Saturday is now Capello's system of choice. In Parker's absence it was used throughout last night and it survived four substitutions in the second half. This seems like the way that England will play from now on. If Capello's beloved 4-4-2 system really is dead it is remarkable that it took the challenge of matching up to humble Wales to make him change his mind.
Just one point of order. Amid all the new faces, Capello should have treated one of his most reliable performers better. Peter Crouch has not played a minute in the last two games despite being earmarked for a second-half run-out last night. With 22 goals in 42 caps, he must feel like the invisible man. Also, what is the point of keeping Robert Green on the bench when he has not played since the United States game at the World Cup? He deserves better, too.
With their supporters screeching at every touch from Gyan in Ghana's first international match against England since the country declared independence from Britain in 1957, this never felt like just another friendly. The winger Dominic Adiyah looked sharp although he lost his nerve when he ran on goal in the seventh minute and Joe Hart made the first of two excellent first-half saves from him.
Hart looked a bit wobbly at times. He made a second brilliant one-handed save from Adiyah on 27 minutes and then five minutes later gave the ball to Gyan on the edge of his own box. England survived that time but it was in keeping with the slightly chaotic feel to the game.
Young was the stand-out performer for England, especially in the first half. On 10 minutes he struck a curling shot from Stewart Downing's knockdown that drew a good save from Richard Kingson. He then missed from four yards out when James Milner's cross eluded the entire Ghana defence. It was a bad one but it was coming quickly and Young scooped it up with the outside of his right foot and against the crossbar.
Downing looked on his game too. It was just a pity his best chance of the game was on his right foot rather than his left and was hit wildly over the bar. With two minutes left in the first half, Downing looked like he was trying to control a chipped ball from Young but his heavy touch created space for Carroll to shoot across the goal, through John Mensah's legs and past Kingson.
Carroll's goal came at the end of what was a fairly average first half for him. His touch was far from perfect at times, especially when he got rather too much on a ball which he tried to knock ahead of him up the left wing. He did not have much of the service that he once thrived on at Newcastle United – the early cross into the box – but he may well find that is a feature of life at international level.
The expectation was that Capello would bring Carroll off at half-time but instead he gave him an hour and when Jermain Defoe came on in his place the 4-3-3 formation was retained. Latterly, Capello brought on Jarvis for his international debut on the right side of the front three. Defoe played down the middle. Young moved left.
England struggled to contain Ghana in the latter stages. Phil Jagielka made a good challenge on Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu in the box. The Ghana pressure increased. There was an uncharacteristically cynical lunge from Milner who ran a set of studs down the back of Gyan's leg on 74 minutes.
But Ghana's World Cup star had the final say. In injury-time he held off Gary Cahill and turned substitute Joleon Lescott one way and then the other before side-footing the ball past Hart. The Ghana team had got the draw they deserved and which even Capello would not have begrudged them. It was not the end to the evening the England manager had envisaged, but he would later reflect that it was not a bad night's work at all.
Man of the match: Young.
Match rating: 8/10.
Referee: C Cakir (Turkey).
Attendance: 80,102.Reuse content