England close on Euro 2012 place with win over Wales
England need only a point in Montenegro next month to qualify for Euro 2012 after an unconvincing 1-0 victory against Wales at Wembley.
Ashley Young's first-half goal allowed Fabio Capello's side to build on Friday's win in Bulgaria and move closer to securing a place in Poland and Ukraine next summer - but this was not a performance to cause any concern among Europe's elite.
Wales, without the suspended Craig Bellamy and David Vaughan, deserved a point and should have claimed it, only for substitute Robert Earnshaw to miss an open goal with 13 minutes left.
It would have been deserved reward for Gary Speed's improving Wales against an off-colour England, who at least had the comfort of their first win at Wembley for more than a year.
And it left Capello knowing a draw in Podgorica in England's final qualifier will be enough to ensure he ends his time in charge of the national team at a major tournament, after his side moved six points clear of Montenegro at the top of Group G.
The Italian, however, will surely not be satisfied with this performance. The width, movement and threat on show against an admittedly poor Bulgaria was missing at Wembley and Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey was barely troubled apart from Young's goal.
Frank Lampard made a swift return in place of Scott Parker after his exclusion in Bulgaria, but he was anonymous - although he was not alone in that - and substituted late on.
ENGLAND'S ROUTE TO EURO 2012
- England now only need a point from their final game in Montenegro on 7 October to guarantee qualification for Euro 2012
- If England lose in Montenegro, then Montenegro need a win against Switzerland in their final game on 11 October to qualify as group winners because they have a better head-to-head record over England
- Should England finish second in the group, they will go into a two-legged play-off against one of seven other group runners-up
Capello made two changes from the team that won so impressively in Sofia on Friday, with Lampard returning in place of Scott Parker and James Milner replacing Theo Walcott, who was suffering from a slight hamstring problem.
Speed promised a more resilient and organised display from Wales after a timid slide to defeat in Cardiff in March - and it was duly delivered despite England's interval advantage.
Wales had survived in some comfort, despite John Terry heading wide and Stewart Downing volleying off target, before Young put England ahead 10 minutes before half-time.
Downing, on one of the few occasions when England were able to get in behind Wales, pulled the ball back for Young to beat Hennessey emphatically at the near post.
If England's fans thought this would be the signal for Capello's side to confirm their authority, they were to be proved wrong as Wales grew in confidence as the second half progressed and emerged as the better side for spells.
And how they will regret the missed opportunity to secure a point they deserved with that dreadful miss from Earnshaw after 77 minutes. He only needed to apply the finishing touch to Darcy Blake's knockdown but somehow managed to blaze his finish over the top of an open goal from five yards.
The entire Welsh bench, led by Speed, was up in celebration and then down in despair at the realisation that Earnshaw had contrived to miss the game's best chance.
The striker attempted to make amends with a speculative long-range effort moments later - but to no avail as England closed out the win.
England : Hart, Smalling, Terry, Cahill, Cole, Milner, Lampard (Parker 73), Barry, Downing (Johnson 79), Young, Rooney (Carroll 89).
Subs Not Used: Stockdale, Jagielka, Lescott, Defoe.
Goals: Young 35.
Wales: Hennessey, Gunter, Williams, Blake, Taylor, Bale, Crofts, Collison (King 85), Ramsey, Ledley, Morison (Earnshaw 68).
Subs Not Used: Myhill, Danny Collins, James Collins, Allen, Robson-Kanu.
Ref: Robert Schorgenhofer (Austria).