Mar 27, 2011

England cruise to win over Wales

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England cruised to a comfortable victory against Wales in Cardiff as their campaign to reach Euro 2012 stayed on course at the Millennium Stadium.

Fabio Capello's side silenced the passionate home support with two goals inside the first 14 minutes - and those early blows were always too much for Wales as they slumped to their fourth successive defeat in qualifying to remain without a point.

New manager Gary Speed had the scale of the task facing him illustrated by the gulf in quality between the sides, especially after he was stripped of Tottenham's Gareth Bale through injury in the build-up.

Frank Lampard put England ahead with a penalty after only seven minutes following James Collins' rash foul on Aston Villa team-mate Ashley Young and Wales were soon in even more trouble as Darren Bent swiftly added a second.

Glen Johnson released Young on the right flank and his inviting delivery offered Bent an open invitation to score his third goal in successive games for England, further evidence that he is adapting to international football.

The only blot on England's day came with a yellow card for Wayne Rooney that rules him out of the qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley in June.

But Capello will be delighted that his players delivered a performance that will finally turn the spotlight away from the saga of John Terry's restoration to the captaincy ahead of Rio Ferdinand.

Wales lacked a cutting edge without the thrust of Bale and a shortage of service meant Craig Bellamy was unable to exert any influence or pressure on England's defence.

There was a revival of sorts in the second half, when Wales at least enjoyed greater possession, but England's afternoon was more comfortable than they could have expected.

It was not only the victory that would have brought Capello great satisfaction.

Terry reclaimed the captain's armband with relish, while Young delivered a man-of-the-match display to press his case for a regular place.

And in midfield, Jack Wilshere and Scott Parker enhanced their reputations by dictating terms and refusing to give Wales any sort of platform to play.

England's performance must be placed in the context of Wales' struggles but the manner of the win was impressive.

Wales, on the other hand, must now revert back to Speed's plan to build for the future as their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign draws to a desperately disappointing conclusion.

How Wales missed Bale's inspiration in a woeful first 45 minutes in which they achieved the seemingly impossible, reducing a passionate Cardiff crowd to periods of near silence.

The pre-match ceremonies were marred as Wales fans drowned out England's anthem - inevitably prompting an equally disrespectful response from the visiting supporters to the Welsh anthem.

Wales needed a fast start to build on the atmosphere but England were gifted the ideal opening when Collins needlessly bundled Young to the ground as he raced into the area.

The protests were in vain - and Lampard made no mistake with an emphatic spot-kick.

And England further deflated Wales when a sweeping move increased the sense of dejection by doubling their advantage seven minutes later.

Johnson's ball exposed Wales' left flank and Young provided the perfect cross for the incoming Bent to sweep a finish high past keeper Wayne Hennessey into the roof of the net.

Wales were providing little in the way of fight and resistance, usually the bare minimum in front of their own followers, although Bellamy and Ashley Cole appeared to be involved in a lengthy verbal battle that needed the intervention of Rooney to restore peace.

Rooney's own performance was patchy and he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Joe Ledley, doubly frustrating as the offence was committed in a harmless position.

Young was enjoying plenty of freedom and exploiting it to the full, almost getting on the scoresheet with a rising drive that flew narrowly over the bar.

England had barely broken sweat in the first half but Wales did find a little more of a spark after the break, only for any fleeting threat to be snuffed out by a glaring lack of quality.

The win was signed, sealed and delivered for England inside those first 14 minutes and the rest was simply a matter of completing the formalities against a disappointingly tame Wales.



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