After ten minutes of this latest
International match at Wembley Stadium I looked down at my notes and
realised there was nothing there!
Such was the start of the game as both sides
felt each other out but failed to rouse the sparse crowd, the new
Wembley Stadium's lowest yet.
It did get better later on, but the match never
rose to any great heights.
However, England did win, and won more easily
than the scoreline suggests, in fact 3-0 would have been a little more
Sweden had the first 'attempt' at goal on 12
minutes, a free-kick that was easily blocked by the England wall,
whilst two minutes later, at the other, end a fast run into the box by
Theo Walcott forced a corner.
The same player then combined with Bobby Zamora and the Fulham
player stabbed his effort wide from close in.
Nothing much had happened during the first
quarter of the game but on 22 minutes, out of the blue, England took
the lead. Stewart Downing
and Leighton Baines worked an opening down the left wing and Downing
was able to take the ball on before delivering a fine cross to the
middle. It was Gareth
Barry who leapt high to meet the ball with a glancing header which at
first appeared to go straight into the far corner.
But replays then showed that the Swedish defender Daniel
Majstorovic had made a decisive final touch and an own goal seemed to
be the majority decision.
That was a shame because the goal was England's 2000th in
Internationals. Perhaps we
should all go along with the Wembley scoreboard who gave it to Barry.
Whoever scored, it gave England the lead and play picked up a
little as a result of the deadlock being broken.
It certainly woke Sweden from their slumbers and a series of
over robust challenges upset the referee, with a couple of yellow
cards being shown.
England were playing with Phil Jones again in
midfield and both he and Jack Rodwell looked very lively at times.
Rodwell will be kicking himself for not scoring in this game.
His box to box runs had been brilliant and a goal would have
put the icing on the cake of an impressive performance.
His first chance came after Zamora and Baines combined on the
left and the full-back set his clubmate up with a great pass only for
Rodwell's shot to take a deflection and fly just wide.
The Jones superbly burst through the middle with a one against
one with the keeper. As
Andreas Isaksson came out Jones flicked the ball wide of him, but
also, sadly, just wide of the far post.
Then, after 41 minutes, it was Rodwell's turn to shine again,
first when he headed a Swedish attack clear, and then when he met an
inch perfect cross from the lively Downing again.
This time Rodwell should have buried the close range header,
instead his effort scraped the outside of the post.
It seemed easier to score to be honest.
At half-time England were still ahead, but
whether they would rue the missed guilt-edged chances to add to their
score, only time would tell.
Sweden were largely anonymous with their star man Zlatan
Ibrahimovic hardly having a kick, and Joe Hart only tested by a cross
from Rasmus Elm, which almost crept in under the crossbar, until the
keeper managed to claw the ball away to safety.
Sweden were very physical and one or two of their players were
lucky to stay on the field, so often did they foul.
But for England Jones and Rodwell had really impressive halves
and young Kyle Walker, making his first start, had an outstanding game
from start to finish at right-back.
He was always available, made some tremendous runs forward and
yet his defensive work was first-class.
He looks a real find for Fabio Capello.
At half-time Scott Carson came on for Hart in
the England goal, whilst Sweden made changes too, but it was another
devastating burst by Downing that created the first chance of the
half. His cross to Zamora
was met by the centre-forward but again an important deflection was
made by the defender.
Sweden tried to step up the pace, but Gary Cahill and skipper John
Terry withstood all that the visitors could muster down the middle,
whilst the full-backs took care of the wings.
If truth be told the second half was a little
tedious and England could only bring on their downfall themselves.
There were a few loose passes, but overall they were in command
of the situation. Carson
was only tested once, and similar to Hart earlier, it was a
speculative cross that almost did the damage.
The goalkeeper managed to claw the ball away and keeping a
clean sheet will do his confidence the world of good should he be
needed in the future.
Around the hour mark England brought on Daniel Sturridge and James
Milner for Rodwell and Walcott, with debutant Sturridge moving to the
left with Downing switching to the right.
Downing then set up another chance for Zamora
before intercepting a pass and making for goal himself.
It looked odds on a goal but Downing's hard, low shot was well
gathered by Isaksson.
Darren Bent replaced Zamora, and the Fulham man can be pleased with
may not be the best player in International football but you would be
hard pressed to find a more willing runner.
There were few chances in the closing minutes,
despite a lot of huffing and puffing.
Another brilliant run by Walker saw him combine with Milner,
and the latter put in a fine cross.
Bent went for it but the defender managed to clear for a
corner. Right at the death
substitute Bajrami crossed to the far side and Christian Wilhelmsson
volleyed a good chance high over the bar.
That was the only time Walker had been caught out of position.
So, England remain unbeaten during the
calendar year and the momentum is continued.
The 43 year record against one of our bogey sides has finally
been sorted, by registering our first victory against the Swedes since
1968. Certainly Capello
has now found lots of new options over the past week and one or two of
the senior players will be looking over their shoulders at the influx
of these good youngsters.
It can only be good for England's future, let's hope that 2012 is just
as productive for the team.
Dare we hope?