Both sides began the game with lone striker formations, 4-2-3-1 for Wales and 4-3-3 for England, the home side’s solo forward Steven Morison supported by new captain Aaron Ramsey while Darren Bent looked to the twin wide threats of Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney for assistance. For Wales, Craig Bellamy started on the right of the attack, ostensibly to pin back the rampaging Ashley Cole as possibly the only Welshman in the absence of Gareth Bale who could match the Chelsea defender for outright speed.
The expected frantic tempo began from the off. England had possession for much of the opening but were tenaciously harried and harassed by a Wales side roared on from the stands. In an atmosphere as boisterous to rival anywhere in the world Wales’ ferocity on the pitch matched that coming from the crowd. Just six minutes in, however, James Collins’ clumsy pursuit of Ashley Young drew a penalty which Frank Lampard put past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy to quieten the partisan support. It was Lampard’s club mate Terry who gave England the impetus that led to the spot kick, striding out of defence and finding Young who was brought down by his Aston Villa colleague Collins.
In the aftermath of the early goal England’s confidence visibly rose, while Wales’ plummeted as they struggled to win possession and soon the visitors’ lead was doubled. Glen Johnson’s drilled pass to Young caught the Wales defence square and Bent hammered the winger’s cross past a helpless Hennessy. The home side continued to be tigerish but with little effect as England were able to match their dedication, shrug away the pressure and exert their technical superiority with quick passing interchanges and movement across the pitch. Rooney and Young lined up in wide positions but they were nominal, instead flitting from outside in and never leaving Bent isolated, unlike Morison, who had to feed on scraps. The only negative of England’s first-half was the yellow card for Rooney to rule him out of England’s next qualifier with Switzerland in June.
It was much of the same for much of the second-half. Wales attempted to play possession football but could only do so between their penalty area and the half way line. England then pressed Wales into a mistake, regained control and built from there. Wales’ signs of life did improve somewhat after the break but it was not enough, although David Vaughn’s introduction boosted Wales’ cause. England displayed some sloppiness at times, such as when Morison was played in on the hour mark after England conceded possession, but an uncertain touch wasted the chance while Ramsey, Bellamy and Andy King had efforts from long range that flew past Joe Hart’s goal. The England goalkeeper did not have to make a save but Wales did force a series of corners late in the game. However, it was too little, too late, and England wrapped up a comfortable victory.