World Cup 2010 - England struggle past Mexico

Eurosport - Mon, 24 May 21:55:00 2010

England struggled to a 3-1 win over Mexico at Wembley as Fabio Capello's side continued their preparations for the World Cup finals in South Africa.

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Ledley King marked his return to the international fold with his second England goal to give his side a 17th minute lead, and Peter Crouch bundled the ball home from close-range to make it two.

England were guilty of defending with hesitancy in the opening period, and Guillermo Franco capitalised on the stroke of half-time to reduce the deficit and cause the hosts some concern over their defensive capabilities.

But within two minutes of the restart, Glen Johnson broke his international duck with an incisive run through the Mexico half, before unfurling an exquisite finish to restore England's two-goal cushion.

Capello persevered with a two-man attack as Crouch accompanied Wayne Rooney up front, while James Milner was handed a starting berth in the centre of midfield.

The Wembley pitch was not watered in a bid to stop the players from sustaining a World Cup-threatening injury, but both sides found it conducive to slick passing as the play lurched from one end to the other at a frantic pace early on.

Mexico enjoyed their fair share of possession in the first half, and England were stretched at the back on an alarming number of occasions, with Guillermo Franco turning King all too easily and firing a snap shot wide of the far post in just the fifth minute.

Alongside Franco, Giovani dos Santos was a livewire for the visitors in attack but, despite a few nervy moments at the back, England took the lead courtesy of the returning King.

Steven Gerrard whipped over a deep corner which Crouch headed back into the box where King was lurking, and the defender nodded the ball beyond Oscar Perez to open the scoring.

Robert Green was given a starting spot, and the West Ham goalkeeper distinguished himself with a string of fine saves as Mexico continued to cause havoc in the final third.

Dos Santos slipped a delightful through ball in for Franco who got in beyond Leighton Baines, but Green spread himself superbly to parry the ball away to safety on the half hour mark.

A minute later, Mexico hit the post as defender Carlos Salcido had his initial strike blocked by Milner, then curled an exquisite effort which beat Green but not the far post.

England assumed a two-goal cushion five minutes later as Rooney sent a header crashing against the underside of the crossbar, and Crouch converted it from close-range with what looked to be his hand.

Replays also showed the striker had strayed offside in the process.

Green made another fine reflex save seconds later. Arsenal striker Carlos Vela hared down on goal but saw his shot blocked away superbly as the England keeper thwarted the visitors once more.

Capello made three changes at the break as Jermain Defoe, Joe Hart and Jamie Carragher were introduced, and England were considerably more sprightly in the second half.

The Wembley crowd made a tardy return to their seats with much of the capacity attendance missing the highlight of the match in the 47th minute.

Johnson surged forward powerfully from right-back before cutting inside and unleashing a sublime curled effort inside the far post from the edge of the Mexico box to restore England's two-goal lead.

Rooney and Gerrard both attempted audacious chips from range. First the vice-captain almost beat Perez with a dipping effort, then a dink from the Manchester United forward almost caught the keeper off his line as he charged out to clear a loose ball.

Gerrard was inspired after taking the armband from Ferdinand for the second half and, after Defoe set a swift counter-attack in motion, Rooney picked out the midfielder with a perfectly-weighted pass, only for substitute Pablo Berrera to commit a poor foul to stop the enthralling move in its tracks.

Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and later Adam Johnson were all given second-half cameos from the substitutes' bench, and Spurs winger Lennon made his presence known with a number of searing runs.

One such run saw Lennon hurtle down the right before cutting inside sharply. But just as he was bearing down on goal Francisco Rodriguez cynically hauled him down on the edge of the box. Had it not been a friendly, Rodriguez's fate would have been a straight red card.

Capello's attention now turns to the final warm-up match against Japan in Graz on Sunday as the World Cup finals in South Africa draw ever closer, but his side leave home shores brimming with confidence, and off the back of what turned out to be another comprehensive victory.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

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