KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: England’s last warm-up before flying off to Euro 2012 was also a test for goal-line technology at Wembley but the Hawk-Eye system was not put under strain as Roy Hodgson’s men beat Belgium 1-0 on a first-half goal from Danny Welbeck.
Hodgson’s record is thus played two, won two which was, at least, a positive note on which he can take his squad to Poland and Ukraine. But France, Ukraine and Sweden should offer a greater test than a Belgian side who saw far more of the ball but lacked a goal-scoring edge. New coach Marc Wilmots must remedy that weakness if his team are to make the impression on next season’s World Cup qualifiers which their talent demands.
Belgium lost skipper Vincent Kompany in the warm-up to a muscle strain but had a solid replacement in Timmy Simons and had few problems containing England whose greatest worry was not scoring goals but the risk of more injuries.
Experienced midfielder Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard had already been ruled out of Euro 2012, Scott Parker was short of football after an end-of-season injury and then centre-back Gary Cahill had to be substituted after only 16 minutes. The Chelsea centre back suffered a blow to the jaw after being pushed into keeper Joe Hart by Dries Mertens and was replaced as a precaution by Joleon Lescott.
Surprisingly then, England took the lead after 37 minutes. Fulham’s Mousa Dembele was caught in possession in midfield and Ashley Young slipped the ball through for Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck to score his first international goal.
Belgium had been beaten only once in their previous 16 games – by Germany – but the mystery was how they managed to score any goals. For all their talent in defence and midfield they created nothing.
Indeed England might have scored again before half-time when skipper Steve Gerrard had two deliberate shots from the edge of the penalty area blocked. Gerrard, voted official man of the match, was making his 92nd appearance for England.
Not until the hour mark did Belgium put in a shot on target and then Hart had to save twice in quick succession, albeit without difficult, from Eden Hazard and Maraoune Fellaini.
The Everton man also brought a diving stop from Hart in stoppage time but, inbetween, it was England who went closer in the substitute-strewn closing stages when Jermain Defoe pulled a low angled shot against keeper Simon Mignolet’s right-hand post.
= = = =