Young strike slays Dragons
England move to within a point of qualification for Euro 2012
By Chris Burton. Last Updated: 06/09/11 9:56pm
Young: His striker proved to be enough to see England to all three points
England stand on the brink of qualification for Euro 2012 following a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Wales at Wembley on Tuesday.
A solitary strike from Ashley Young proved to be enough for Fabio Capello's men in an all-British encounter, with his effort 10 minutes before the interval meaning the Three Lions now require just a point from an away date in Montenegro to book their place at next summer's tournament.
Much of the talk prior to kick-off focused on Frank Lampard's recall to England's starting XI, with his omission against Bulgaria on Friday leading some to suggest that the curtain had come down on his international career.
The only other change by Capello on a wet and windy night at Wembley saw James Milner drafted in for Theo Walcott, while Wales handed England-born Jack Collison his first competitive outing.
Wales set their stall out early, allowing England to have the ball in front of them while looking to hit Gareth Bale, who started on the right flank, at every opportunity.
The Three Lions were far from fluent early on, as has often been the case on home soil under Capello, but they did fashion the first opening of the night when John Terry nodded a corner past the post under pressure from Ashley Williams.
Wales grew in confidence the longer they were able to keep England under wraps and soon began to offer a threat of their own, with Williams diverting a Bale free-kick wide of the target.
Collison then made a bright burst into the box, which was only halted by a sliding challenge by Terry, before Wales skipper Aaron Ramsey lashed high over the crossbar.
Shortly after Steve Morison outmuscled Terry and sent an ambitious volley flashing high and wide of Joe Hart's goal.
Wales were able to keep Wayne Rooney relatively quiet for the best part of 20 minutes but, following good interplay with Lampard, the in-form Manchester United striker sent a delicate chip narrowly over the top once found in space.
James Milner then became the first man in the book for hacking down Bale, with the Tottenham winger showing glimpses of what he is capable of.
Shortly before the half-hour mark Downing sent an acrobatic volley over the top, following good work by Young, but the former Aston Villa colleagues combined to devastating effect on 35 minutes.
Downing's direct run took him into the box and his cut back was lashed home at the near post by Young, who has started the new season in blistering form for club and country.
A weight was lifted from England's shoulders once the ball hit the net and they ended the half much the brighter, with Rooney unfortunate not to get a touch on a dangerous whipped delivery from United team-mate Young.
The second period began as the first had ended, with the hosts looking to stamp their authority on proceedings.
Inside the opening 60 seconds Young bustled his way through to force a smart save from Wayne Hennessey.
At 1-0 Wales were still very much in the game, though, and were unfortunate to see the assistant referee raise his flag once Bale had ghosted in behind Ashley Cole, with the jet-heeled winger clearly onside when he broke into open field.
Gareth Barry was then forced to put in a last-ditch tackle to deny Ramsey, as the Arsenal man prepared to pull the trigger after being picked out by Bale.
Bale was starting to see more and more of the ball at this stage, but he was unable to produce an end product on the hour mark as he sliced wildly into the stands from all of 30 yards.
Seconds later England could have been two up, with Barry picking out Lampard who, after getting the ball out from under his feet, lofted the ball over the frame of the goal from just inside the penalty area.
Milner then saw a shot take a wicked deflection, with his effort wrong-footing Hennessey but dropping well wide of the target.
Wales' goalkeeper displayed a rare moment of weakness on 65 minutes, with a fumble under pressure allowing Gary Cahill to fire goalwards - but narrowly over the crossbar.
The first change of the night came on 68 minutes, with the hard-working Morison making way for Robert Earnshaw as Gary Speed attempted to mix things up and replace graft with guile.
The visitors did their best to find a route back into the game, but all too often their hard work was undone once reaching the final third.
Rooney was not having much luck in and around the goal either, with one stabbed effort drifting well wide of the target before Scott Parker was introduced in place of Lampard.
Wales then spurned two glorious opportunities to snatch a leveller in the space of a minute.
First Bale fizzed a 25-yard free-kick over the top and then Earnshaw, a man usually so reliable in front of goal, somehow managed to miss the target with an open net gaping in front of him.
England knew they had been let off the hook and sought to inject fresh impetus into their own performance as Downing made way for another tricky wideman in the form of Adam Johnson.
The new arrival had not even touched the ball by the time Wales threatened again, with Chris Gunter forcing his way past Young and bringing a spectacular save from Hart - who was unaware that the whistle had gone for a free-kick.
With less than 10 minutes left on the clock, Wales were looking more likely to find a second goal of the night, with Earnshaw doing his utmost to make up for his previous misdemeanour with a curling effort that sailed close to Hart's goal without ever really troubling it.
Speed's final throw of the dice saw him send on Andy King in place of Collison, who was understandably looking weary following a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Inside the final few minutes Earnshaw forced a low stop from Hart, Young saw a well-struck drive ripple the side-netting and Rooney was given a breather as Andy Carroll, a man warned about his off-field behaviour by Capello in the build-up to the game, was given a late run-out.
In the end the side ranked fourth in the world by Fifa picked up the points, but the side languishing in 117th place were able to leave London with their heads held high and looking towards a bright future.
European Championship Qualifying
Tue 6th Sep - Group B
Russia0 - 0Rep Ire
Macedonia1 - 0Andorra
Slovakia0 - 4Armenia
Tue 6th Sep - Group A
Azerbaijan3 - 2Kazakhstan
Austria0 - 0Turkey
Tue 6th Sep - Group E
Finland0 - 2Holland
Moldova0 - 2Hungary
S Marino0 - 5Sweden
Tue 6th Sep - Group F
Croatia3 - 1Israel
Malta1 - 1Georgia
Latvia1 - 1Greece
Tue 6th Sep - Group D
Bos&Herz1 - 0Belarus
Luxembourg2 - 1Albania
Romania0 - 0France
Tue 6th Sep - Group H
Denmark2 - 0Norway
Iceland1 - 0Cyprus
Tue 6th Sep - Group C
Estonia4 - 1N Ireland
Serbia3 - 1Faroe Isl
Italy1 - 0Slovenia
Tue 6th Sep - Group G
Switzerlnd3 - 1Bulgaria
England1 - 0Wales
Tue 6th Sep - Group I
Scotland1 - 0Lithuania
Spain6 - 0Liechtenstein
European Championship Qualifying Group A
European Championship Qualifying Group B
|5||Bosnia and Herzegovina||3||2|
European Championship Qualifying Group C
European Championship Qualifying Group D
|2||Republic of Ireland||3||7|
European Championship Qualifying Group E
European Championship Qualifying Group F
European Championship Qualifying Group G
European Championship Qualifying Group H
European Championship Qualifying Group I