Platt lifts flat show

Umbro Cup: Captain puts the gloss on an afternoon that a rising Japanese force threatened to turn into embarrassment
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England 2

Anderton 48, Platt 88 pen

Japan 1

Ihara 62

Attendance: 21,142

AT HALF-TIME at Wembley yesterday a disc jockey with a politically incorrect but accurate sense of humour played the Madness song "Embarrassment", and England so nearly suffered it. It took a penalty converted by David Platt two minutes from time to spare the blushes and bring a win from what should be the easiest of the three games they face in a week in the Umbro Cup, with Sweden and Brazil, who finished third and first in last year's World Cup, to come.

There are no easy games at this level, runs the old adage - or refuge of those who have not performed to their capabilities - and Japan were indeed well- organised and neat in their passing. They still represented lightweight opposition, however, even for a team containing four new caps. Ring-rusty England's lack of penetration and precision was exposed as a concern for the coach Terry Venables.

A goalless, soulless first half in front of a mere 21,142 was followed by an England goal early in the second by Darren Anderton, one of the few to impress, but the equaliser that Japan deserved came within quarter of an hour - via the least expected source for an English defence with a height advantage, a near-post header by Masami Ihara from a corner. No "'climb up on my knee Sony boy" here. Finally, looking just a little more inventive with the introduction as a substitute of Paul Gascoigne, came the captain's innings.

"We played some good football at times," Venables said afterwards. "But we have got to do more of it, more consistently. It was a little disjointed. We have got to support the front players quicker." Alan Shearer was anonymous, while the debutant Stan Collymore was not the first to find out how long it can take at international level to get the ball back once possession is squandered.

Venables praised Japan as "quick, lively and dangerous". The defensive debutants, Gary Neville, John Scales and David Unsworth, performed adequately in the circumstances. The problems were in midfield, with Platt not the dynamic force he can be, Peter Beardsley only fitfully creative and David Batty unambitious. Shearer and Collymore thus dined on scraps. If Collymore was getting carried away by talk of an pounds 8.5m transfer, yesterday's experience should have proved salutary, both to him and to inflated English football.

Often, notably in the striker Kazuyoshi Miura, who plays his football in Italy for Genoa, an admirably attacking Japan outpassed England, showing greater accuracy in distribution and shooting. Three times in the first half, Miura forced Tim Flowers into low saves with powerful shots.

England had had the best chance after seven minutes when Beardsley sent Shearer clear but Kazuya Maekawa was swiftly out of his goal to save with his legs. Thereafter, England were like golfers finding the rough. Collymore headed over after a neat move by Shearer and Beardsley, Anderton headed another wide and Unsworth mishit a shot after Collymore had headed on a corner. Shearer stretched to volley over a cross by Anderton.

They found the target three minutes into the second half, however. Anderton cut inside and played the ball to Shearer, who squeezed a return pass past Kazuaki Tasaka, and Anderton's goalbound left-footed shot from just inside the penalty area deflected off Ihara and over Maekawa's dive.

Any English hopes that this would be the first of several goals and a case of Japan committing hara-kiri were soon dispelled when the sweeper strode forward to meet Miura's corner ahead of Unsworth and glance home a header. Two minutes later, Miura hit the post with a low shot and England were floundering. Gascoigne's appearance raised hopes and tempo.

England might have had a penalty when Taska brought down Platt, though was judged to have been fouled first himself. Then they did get one. Stuart Pearce swung in a free-kick from the right, Maekawa touched Platt's header on to a post and the ball rebounded to Scales, whose scuffed volley was handled on the line by Tetsuji Hashiratani. After the Japanese captain had departed the piece with a red card, Platt struck home the penalty to the goalkeeper's left.

Venables says he will make changes for the match against Sweden at Elland Road, Leeds on Thursday. He will need to, not least in personnel.

England (4-4-2): Flowers (Blackburn Rovers): Neville (Manchester United), Scales (Liverpool), Unsworth (Everton), Pearce (Nottingham Forest); Anderton (Tottenham Hotspur), Platt (Sampdoria, capt), Batty (Blackburn Rovers), Beardsley (Newcastle); Shearer (Blackburn Rovers), Collymore (Nottingham Forest). Subs: Gascoigne (Lazio) for Batty, 68; McManaman (Liverpool) for Beardsley, 68; Sheringham (Tottenham) for Collymore, 76

Japan (3-5-2): Maekawa (Sanfrecce Hiroshima); Tasaka (Bellmare Hiratsuka), Hashiratani (Verdy Kawasaki, capt), Ihara (Yokohama Marinos); Narahashi (Bellmare Hiratsuka), Morishima (Cerezo Osaka), Yamaguchi (Yokohama Flugels), Kitazawa (Verdy Kawasaki), Soma (Kashima Antlers); Miura (Genoa), Nakayama (Jubilo Iwata). Subs: Kurosaki (Kashima Antlers) for Nakayama, 65; Yanagimoto (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) for Soma, 73; Fukuda (Urswa Red Diamonds) for Morishima, 81.

Referee: J. Uilenberg (Netherlands).