Young strike gives spark to dreary England

Norway 0 England 1: Hodgson's reign begins with a victory but there's precious little to get excited about from typically workmanlike performance less than two weeks before Euro 2012

Oslo

England went back to the future under their new manager Roy Hodgson last night, with a standard 4-4-2 formation and a big centre-forward to knock the ball up to.

Manchester United's Ashley Young, playing right up alongside Andy Carroll, scored inside the first 10 minutes and there was never any great danger thereafter of Hodgson joining Alf Ramsey as the only manager to lose his first match in charge of England. It was hardly, however, one of the convincing wins or performances with which Don Revie, Kevin Keegan, Glenn Hoddle, Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren all began; and we know what happened to just about all of them.

Hodgson insisted on Friday that this was "a preparation game", one of two he has before the European Championship. He saw some determined work from his second strings in the back-line and confirmation that Young can play in a forward role if bog-standard 4-4-2 is to be the system. England looked better when Steven Gerrard was on than when he went off as planned, and generally lacked a creative spark.

It can safely be assumed that the team that faces Belgium at Wembley on Saturday will be far closer to the real thing than yesterday's. With Chelsea's players, of whom John Terry and Daniel Sturridge did not play at all in the Champions' League final, excused duty all last week, the whole defence, including the goalkeeper, was composed of reserves.

One of them, Phil Jagielka, will not even travel to the finals unless there are further injury problems like the one Gareth Barry suffered in the second half. Last night Hodgson said it was too early to decide whether Jagielka or Jordan Henderson would replace Barry if he was forced to drop out. Joleon Lescott may harbour hopes of partnering John Terry in Donetsk and did his chances no harm with a strong performance alongside Jagielka in repelling a predictably direct threat.

The only doubt about yesterday's starting XI was the identity of the wide players, who turned out – possibly to Theo Walcott's concern – to be James Milner and Stewart Downing. Neither excelled, but nor did Walcott after appearing in the second half at a time when England were mostly going backwards.

For the first half, before substitutions kicked in, Steven Gerrard sat in between the wingers alongside Scott Parker. Gerrard was booed for the last few minutes of his stint, having put the Norwegian right-back Tom Hogli out of the game with a tackle which he claimed was a fair one but would have brought a yellow card in tournament play. Barry replaced him and took the armband too – which may have disappointed Parker, Stuart Pearce's choice. Until the next change – Walcott for Parker – it meant a midfield high on endeavour but low on creativity, which summed up the whole display. Alas, Jack Wilshere will sit out the summer.

Downing, after a hugely underwhelming season with Liverpool, was given the opportunity to supply his club-mate Andy Carroll but did not contribute a great deal, although the pair formed a briefly profitable triangle with Gerrard. Carroll was able to claim an assist for the goal Young scored in the ninth minute. The big centre-forward had already sneaked in front of Brede Hangeland to put a fierce header wide and the Fulham defender was guilty again when Carroll sent Young through on a swift counter-attack to leave Hangeland looking foolish and finish neatly just inside the far post with his left foot.

Young often helped the Merseyside trio form a Lancashire quartet and from Gerrard's pass he volleyed over the bar. Milner set Carroll away with Hangeland caught upfield but his low cross for Young was hit too hard and when Milner cut inside, Carroll wanted a cut-back but the Manchester City man shot, allowing Rune Jarstein a routine save.

As Norway improved – a little – Robert Green on his first appearance since the World Cup match against the United States almost had a Rustenburg moment, allowing Morten Gamst Pedersen's corner to strike the post. John Arne Riise provided the occasional threat from the left, where Milner allowed him too much room, but Lescott and Jagielka were solid in their defending.

The two full-backs dealt competently with Norway's wide men and early in the second half Leighton Baines, quiet until that point, struck a good free-kick that Jarstein had to be at full stretch to keep out.

After that Norway pushed forward more and homed in on some long throws, but created few chances and Green's handling became more assured. There was a debut in the last quarter of an hour for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Martin Kelly but Barry had to come off with what could prove a worrying injury.

Five things we have learned: Hodgson's choices will be determined by injuries – and his rigid 4-4-2

Familiar formation

Roy Hodgson likes 4-4-2. It was the formation with which he and his mentor Bob Houghton transformed Swedish football more than 30 years ago and it still finds favour with him. He had been expected to use someone – Steven Gerrard if not Ashley Young – just off Andy Carroll, but Young was even the furthest man forward on occasion.

Forward-thinking Young

Ashley Young can play as a second striker right alongside the main man and not just in support. He took his goal splendidly and offered an unexpected option, whoever plays with him. "He's at the right age and the right time of his career if he's going to be a top international," Hodgson said.

All change at the back

The team to start the European Championship against France will be substantially different – quite possibly with a completely new back five if Glen Johnson's toe injury ever clears up. But if the Chelsea pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill had until now been favourites to start in the centre of England's defence, then Joleon Lescott's strong performance at the end of a good season has put some pressure on Cahill.

Squad carrying injuries

Injury concerns will continue for some days, if not weeks. Gareth Barry now requires a scan, Adam Johnson and Danny Welbeck are not fit at present and can hardly guarantee being so before the Uefa deadline at midday on Tuesday. The squad will have to be named either with one or more players less than 100 per cent, as usual, or with one of the standby players brought in.

Green cements deputy role

Robert Green may not be finished as an international goalkeeper just yet. Two years on from his last game for his country, he was troubled only once and, although the Norwegian attack – such as it was – rarely managed even a shot on target, he commanded his area and handled well under a barrage of crosses, corners and long throws from the two full-backs. Manchester City's Joe Hart has quite clearly proved himself to be the number one No 1 but Green is now equally well established as first reserve.

Steve Tongue

First games in charge

Walter Winterbottom beat Ireland (a) 7-2, 1946

Sir Alf Ramsey lost to France (a) 5-2, 1963

Don Revie beat Czechoslovakia (h) 3-0, 1974

Ron Greenwood drew 0-0 with Switzerland (h), 1977

Sir Bobby Robson drew 2-2 with Denmark (a), 1982

Graham Taylor beat Hungary (h) 1-0, 1990

Terry Venables beat Denmark (h) 1-0, 1994

Glenn Hoddle beat Moldova (a) 3-0, 1996

Kevin Keegan beat Poland (h) 3-1, 1999

Sven Goran Eriksson beat Spain (h) 3-0, 2001

Steve McClaren beat Greece (h) 4-0, 2006

Fabio Capello beat Switzerland (h) 2-1, 2008

Roy Hodgson beat Norway (a) 1-0, 2012

Norway (4-1-4-1): Jarstein; Hogli (Ruud, 40), Hangeland, Demidov, Riise; Tettey (Jenssen, 90); Elyounoussi, Henriksen (Berisha, 84), Pedersen (Grindheim, 62), Braaten (Huseklepp, 74); Abdellaoue.

England (4-4-2): Green; Jones (Kelly, 88), Jagielka, Lescott, Baines; Milner, Parker (Walcott, 56), Gerrard (Barry, h-t; Henderson, 73), Downing (A Johnson, 85); Young (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 72), Carroll.

Referee Michael Weiner (Germany).

Man of the match Lescott.

Match rating 6/10.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence