ENGLAND 1, BELGIUM 0
England head to the finals of Euro 2012 in fine spirits following back-to-back victories against Norway and Belgium at the start of Roy Hodgson’s reign as manager.
Hodgson’s bow at Wembley was a winning one as England edged victory following a hard-fought and sometimes feisty friendly against opposition from the Low Countries.
And it was a success which was very much made in Manchester as Ashley Young set up United team-mate Danny Welbeck for his first international goal.
After Young was the matchwinner in Norway, it again underlined the importance of the United attacking pair in England’s pursuit of glory in the Poland and Ukraine.
It was also satisfactory work in progress for Hodgson who has triumphed in his first two matches in which his side has also kept two clean sheets.
Hodgson said: “We have not chosen an easy route away to Norway and at home to Belgium.
“Belgium have some very good players and were possibly stronger than Norway so I have to be happy.
“Of course I am pleased because it has been a hard week and we have used a lot of players.
“In the second half, there was a lot of disruption, some of which was forced on us and some which wasn’t.”
Hodgson was referring to injuries to central defenders Gary Cahill and John Terry.
The England manager revealed Cahill has injured jaw saying he hopes it is not fractured while Terry came off with a hamstring injury. He says both players will have scans which will reveal the extent of the damage.
England were dealt another injury setback as Cahill was forced off following a collision with team-mate Joe Hart.
Belgium striker Dries Mertens, chasing a lost cause, shoved Cahill into Hart with a sickening impact resulting in a lengthy stoppage and the Chelsea centre back unable to continue.
Cahill was replaced by Joleon Lescott in the 19th minute to provide a further worry for Hodgson who had already lost Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard from his squad through injury.
It was an opening half of few clear-cut chances with both nations defending resolutely until the breakthrough came in the 37th minute.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, making his full England debut, shot over from a Welbeck cut back.
Belgium’s only opening was a drive from Axel Witsel which cleared the crossbar by a matter of inches.
It needed a touch of magic to end the deadlock and it came as United pair Ashley Young and Welbeck combined with deadly effect.
Young’s slide rule through ball released Welbeck who, under pressure from a defender sliding in, cooly lifted the ball over advancing keeper Simon Mignolet.
Steven Gerrard could have doubled the lead on the stroke of half time as he saw two goalbound shots blocked in quick succession.
Wayne Rooney replaced Welbeck eight minutes into the second period as he was given a workout before the Euro finals, even though he is banned for the first two matches.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the opening period. Belgium were marginally more threatening, but their attempts at goal were weak and presented few problems for Hart.
There was one massive let off for England with 12 minutes left when a long-range drive from right-back Guillaume Gillet struck the upright.
England might have won by a wider margin as eight minutes from time substitute Jermain Defoe’s drive from the right of the box smashed against the far post.
Belgium could have snatched a draw in stoppage time when a drive from Marouane Fellaini forced a decent save from Hart.