Jermain Defoe strikes gold against Italy to give England's future a little more shine

England 2 Italy 1

The Wankdorf Stadium

It takes a beautiful goal to give meaning to a meaningless match and the one that Jermain Defoe struck sweetly past the Italian goalkeeper with 11 minutes left last night belonged to that category of strike that makes even the most indifferent stadium jolt back to attention.

It was a wonderful goal that gave a game played in front of a half-full stadium with a combined total of 13 international debuts, the kind of lustre that an unloved August friendly between two "B" teams might otherwise have been missing. Yes, there was the opportunity for Roy Hodgson to see new players, and rekindle a little optimism, but it always helps the England manager if his team wins.

Hodgson gave five players their debuts and brought Michael Carrick back into international football for the first time in more than two years. This was not the night that the England football team turned the corner, it was nothing more than a first tentative step on what Hodgson hopes will be the journey to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. With the limitations placed upon him, it could have been so much worse.

Yes, Cesare Prandelli handed out eight debuts, and had only three players from the first XI on the night that Italy eliminated England in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, 52 days previously. With one successful qualification campaign under his belt and a recognised way of playing, he has far fewer of the worries and uncertainties that face England as they shape up for another international tournament.

Hodgson is pretty much at the start of that process and given the circumstances around last night's game, he will give thanks for small mercies. He could point to a composed performance from Carrick, who kept possession well in midfield over 90 minutes and was even rewarded with the captain's armband when Frank Lampard went off with 21 minutes left.

Hodgson also got to see Tom Cleverley and Jack Butland in an international game, both of whom played well enough to guarantee that they will be back. That was another small tick in the book on a night when there were empty seats and a sense of indifference in the air. Not exactly the circumstances in which the third-best team in the world – to give them their official Fifa status – usually find themselves.

There were also debuts for John Ruddy, Jake Livermore and Ryan Bertrand, all of whom were second-half substitutes. There was a sparkling cameo from Mr Steady, James Milner, another substitute, who unexpectedly changed the mood of the team despite taking a hefty kick on that famously robust jaw of his.

Last night England did not have to face that old midfield assassin Andrea Pirlo, who caused them such problems in Kiev. They looked sharper after their summer break, although the old problems of failing to move the ball around quick enough, and the lack of width, were evident again. None of this is going to be solved over one night.

Nevertheless, this was the first time that an England team has beaten Italy since 1997 and Hodgson can at least say that he is yet to lose a game in 90 minutes over the course of the seven that he has been in charge. In a job in which mood counts for much, this keeps England ticking over to the first two World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine early next month.

You would be hard-pressed to argue that Carrick and Lampard are the solution to England's problems, especially at a World Cup finals almost two years away, but with Jack Wilshere's injury absence going on interminably, Carrick is a very useful man to have around. Had he been part of the squad, he would undoubtedly have played for England at the last European Championship, although we did not need last night to tell us that.

Unfortunately England did little to get their wingers Adam Johnson and Ashley Young in behind Italy's full-backs, not to mention their two attack-minded full-backs Leighton Baines and Kyle Walker. They still looked ponderous on occasions. With Andy Carroll, substituted at half-time, and looking nothing like match-ready, it was painful at times in the first half. Young, the only England player who also started against Italy in Kiev in June, struggled to get on the ball and Johnson only briefly threatened. Cleverley, deployed in the role taken by Wayne Rooney at Euro 2012 came in and out the game but played well enough to suggest he is not out of his depth.

The one consolation was that at least Italy were as bad at defending corners as England, and both goals in the first half came from the same route. Carrick failed to track Daniele De Rossi when he came into the box for Alessandro Diamanti's corner on 15 minutes, which the captain headed past Butland.

The 19-year-old, now the youngest goalkeeper ever to represent England, could have done little about that goal, and in the build-up had made a good save from a deflected shot to concede the corner. Overall, his bearing and his confident handling of the ball did nothing to detract from the initial supposition that England have a very promising, if inexperienced, goalkeeper at their disposal.

England played better in the latter stages of the first half and they scored when Phil Jagielka dived at the near post to head in Lampard's corner from the right-hand side with 27 minutes gone. They might have scored again when Joleon Lescott, another substitute, could not force the ball home at the back post in the second half.

The winning goal on 79 minutes came shortly after Bertrand blocked an attempt from Manolo Gabbiadini on the England goal. Milner took the ball upfield and played a nice ball to Defoe just out the reach of Ignazio Abate. The striker doubled back and from an improbable position out in the corner of the area struck a fierce shot past Salvatore Sirigu.

Not many strikers would have had the confidence to shoot from that position but then this is Defoe, who shoots given the slightest sight of goal. This was, after all, England's night to try things out.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Man of match Milner.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee S Kever (Swit).

Attendance 15,000.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game