England ended their Euro 2012 preparations on a high as they beat Belgium 1-0 in what was a scrappy affair.
Roy’s game plan may not be attractive but it is definitely effective. Stout defending and tactical discipline has given the newly appointed manager two wins from two games, albeit against lesser oppositions, the Croydon born manager could not have hoped for a better start.
The new gaffer is clearly willing to sacrifice attractive football for scrappy counter attacking play if it means positive results. But Danny Welbeck’s first half goal did not replicate England’s approach. His sublime chip finish put him in contention for a start against France in England’s opening game of the tournament in Donetsk.
Chelsea bound Eden Hazard started for Belgium alongside a host of talented Belgium players branded the ‘Golden Generation’ from a nation not renowned for their football prowess. Despite being the underdogs Belgium were allowed to dominate for large parts of the game, but England were resolute and difficult to break down.
Hodgson handed a first start to 18 year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after the Arsenal youngster came on as a substitute in last weekend’s win over Norway in Oslo. Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole all returned in defence as Danny Welbeck started ahead of Andy Carroll as a lone striker.
James Milner created England’s first chance as he burst down the right and pulled the ball back to Oxlade-Chamberlain whose first time effort flew well wide as the youngster slipped under pressure.
The Arsenal youngster was in the thick of the action as he again missed the target after Welbeck’s lay off.
There was then a moment of worry for England as Gary Cahill collided with Joe Hart and had to be substituted with a suspected broken jaw.
Belgium dominated possession but were wasteful in front of goal, Mertens burst in to the England box but his pull back lacked quality and went out for an English throw.
Witsel then found space on the edge of England’s box but saw his tame strike easily saved by Joe Hart.
Against the run of play England took the lead. Last week’s goal scorer Ashley Young turned provider with a perfectly weighted through ball for fellow Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck whose wonderful chip beat Mignolet and nestled in the back of the net.
After the interval Belgium continued to press, Eden Hazard enjoyed lots of possession before seeing his curling shot comfortably saved just after the 60 minute mark.
Wayne Rooney replaced Danny Welbeck before Jermaine Defoe replaced Ashley Young as Hodgson rotated his squad.
Guillaume Gillet came closest for Belgium, his long range rising strike rattled the outside of the post much to the relief of Joe Hart.
England responded as Jermaine Defoe and Walcott linked up well before Defoe struck the base of the post. The two combined again as England hit Belgium on the break but Defoe failed to test Mignolet as his first time effort struck the side netting.
Everton’s Marouane Fellaini wasted a glorious chance in injury time to steal a draw as Joe Hart comfortably saved the Belgian’s tame low strike.
In a week which has seen key England figures in Barry and Lampard ruled out of the tournament, the Three Lions have ended on a high with several positives to take from this battling display. Danny Welbeck has shown his worth with a sublime goal whilst defensively we were stout and resilient.