Nervy England sink Mexico at Wembley

Date published: Monday 24th August 2015 1:20

Nervy England sink Mexico at Wembley

Ledley King, Peter Crouch and, brilliantly, Glen Johnson scored the goals on England’s last appearance on home soil before departure for South Africa on June 2.
Yet rather than find conclusive evidence his team are capable of making a concerted challenge to win the greatest prize in the game, Fabio Capello watched Mexico create far too many first-half openings for comfort, suggesting there is still much to do before the main event.
Such is the impact Capello has had on the national psyche since he replaced Steve McClaren, reservations about quality have been cast aside because Fabio says he has none himself.
His argument is that having pitted themselves against all the best sides in the world – Argentina apart, and Italy for that matter but for some reason he forgets about his homeland – he has seen nothing to make him scared.
That sturdy presence on the touchline exudes a reassurance which, in others, would be swiftly cast aside to allow for a detailed pick through obvious fault lines that have appeared over the last 12 months.
They were all in clear evidence as Mexico, showing no reservations about the dodgy pitch, repeatedly cut England apart.
Quite how the Three Lions were ahead at the break was beyond rational explanation.
Handed his eighth start in 10 internationals, Robert Green made two excellent saves, had a post rattled and conceded in stoppage time. Yet he handed the gloves to Joe Hart at half-time a winner.
England’s recurring defensive problems stemmed from an inability to subdue Giovani dos Santos, who hardly set the world alight at Spurs but showed why they paid nearly £5million to sign him.
With central midfield duo Michael Carrick and James Milner not settling to their task, far too many holes were offered for Dos Santos to chase into and defensively England weren’t fleet-footed enough to cope.
It was Dos Santos who provided the return pass which opened up the entire goal for Carlos Vela to aim at. He went for the bit Green was filling.
Carlos Salcido then curled a rebound against a post after Milner had blocked his initial shot before Vela outpaced Johnson and brought another good save out of Green, who must be in with a decent chance of keeping the jersey.
Capello remained impassive. His most expansive gesture coming when Carrick gifted Dos Santos an early opportunity with a risky crossfield pass that did not come off.
The Italian’s deadpan expression possibly had something to do with the contrasting emotions of watching his team struggle, while at the same time edge into a two-goal advantage.
On his first appearance since 2007, King scored a perfect goal for his troublesome knees, pushing off one leg rather than actually jumping to steer home Crouch’s nod-back from six yards after the Tottenham striker had pulled to the far post to meet Steven Gerrard’s deep corner.
King did lose his bearings quite badly in the opening stages as he tried to keep tabs on Dos Santos and it was easy to imagine what damage someone like Lionel Messi would do.
As the contest wore on though, the Tottenham skipper improved and he must be reasonably confident of being amongst the 23 names Capello unveils to the world on June 1.
It has long since been established that Crouch simply cannot be left out. When Gerrard curled a beautiful cross onto the head of Wayne Rooney and Oscar Perez acrobatically touched it onto the bar, who better to have standing on the line than the 6ft 7in beanpole, who nudged home his 21st England goal – the same number as Kevin Keegan and Mike Channon and joint 16th on the all-time list.
Guillermo Franco did pull one back for Mexico after Leighton Baines’ attempted goalline clearance fell kindly, but Johnson responded straight after the interval with a sensational first England goal, collecting Theo Walcott’s square ball then stepping past three defenders before producing a thunderbolt finish with his left foot that completed the scoring.
Fabio was still watching, seeing Gerrard look far more comfortable in central midfield than Milner had, Theo Walcott not quite live up to his sparkling first-half effort, Hart deal with a less frequent threat to his goal with confidence and Javier Rodriguez head a goalbound Rooney effort off the line.
Right at the death, there was also a six-minute debut for Adam Johnson, who lit up the stadium with a couple of mazy runs that Aaron Lennon matched on the other flank.
But England head back to their Austrian mountain retreat on Wednesday, by which time injuries to Gareth Barry and Darren Bent will have been assessed, with Capello knowing the time is getting close when problems have to be rectified, otherwise they will really start to hurt.

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