England once again flattered to deceive at Wembley with a stuttering and generally disappointing performance but it was still enough to beat Wales and leave the Three Lions on the brink of automatic qualification for European Championships 2012. England now need just a point from their final qualifier against Montenegro to secure a place in the finals in Poland and Ukraine next summer.
Fabio Capello tweaked his line-up from Friday night’s win in Sofia. Scott Parker was rested, a booking away from being ruled out of the potentially decisive qualifier in Podgorica next month, forcing a reshuffle of the England midfield. James Milner was drafted in to sit alongside his club mate Gareth Barry as the two holding midfielders. Frank Lampard made a quick return to the Three Lions line up in a more advanced midfield position. Ashley Young and Stewart Downing retained their places to support Wayne Rooney.
Wales lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation. West Ham United’s Jack Collison provided the anchor in midfield to release the potential of an exciting looking midfield quartet. With Gareth Bale selected on the right, where he started in the win against Montenegro on Friday, Joe Ledley took up station on the left. Captain Aaron Ramsey lined up in the centre alongside Andrew Crofts with Steve Morison the lone striker.
England’s recent form at Wembley has been patchy, with no wins in the last four games and it was the visitors who settled the quickest. It was clear that Bale was the biggest worry for England, as they surrounded him whenever he had possession in the opening moments. Despite the poor start, Wales made no serious threat to Joe Hart’s goal.
Lampard was anonymous in the opening stages of the match, but as he and Milner swapped positions on the half hour, England began to come into the game. With the Chelsea man getting more possession, his short range passing kick-started England who began to gain a foothold in the tie.
England opened the scoring 10 minutes before half-time. The very impressive Stewart Downing made a lovely run to the bye line, turning full-back Taylor inside out, before cutting back to Young who fired first time from the corner of the six yard box.
England started the second half in lively fashion, Young forcing a good save by Hennessey inside the opening minute. However it was to be a brief flurry before the game settled into the same pattern as much of the opening period.
Wales knew that their best chance of success would come through Bale and tried to get the Tottenham Hotspur star on the ball as often as possible. England, whilst never looking completely comfortable were not seriously threatened and looked dangerous on the break, Barry setting up a chance for Lampard with one surging run, but the Chelsea man fired over.
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