England's first meeting with the Republic of Ireland since 1995 - when their clash at Lansdowne Road was abandoned amid crowd violence - ended in a disappointing Wembley draw.
The atmosphere generated by the 80,000 spectators inside the stadium was lively but this was a game where moments of genuine quality were few and far between.
"Theo Walcott was the most dangerous player but his team-mates didn't feed him enough. Ireland were able to cope easily. It was a stiff performance. It wasn't as slow as a lot of friendlies are -overall it wasn't too bad. The media will have their say but the only thing that counts is what Roy Hodgson concludes from the game."
Republic striker Shane Long produced one with a superb header to give them an early lead but Frank Lampard took advantage of good work by Daniel Sturridge to equalise with his 29th goal for England before half-time.
Liverpool forward Sturridge pulled up with what looked like a serious injury shortly afterwards and was taken away on a stretcher after lengthy treatment.
The Republic, with Everton's Seamus Coleman the game's outstanding performer, survived in relative comfort although it needed two fine late David Forde saves from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott to earn the visitors a draw that was celebrated joyously by their supporters as they maintained an unbeaten 28-year record against England.
England now head to Rio to face Brazil on Sunday and there was little here to concern their illustrious next opponents. Manager Roy Hodgson will be concerned by his side's lack of creativity and his attacking resources are now further reduced by Sturridge's absence.
Captain for the night Ashley Cole received a very positive ovation from the Wembley crowd as he was presented with a commemorative golden cap by Hodgson for passing a century of appearances for his country.
The Republic were, as usual, being backed by thousands of noisy followers inside Wembley and the moment they so craved arrived after 13 minutes. Coleman's right-wing delivery was inviting enough but it still needed a magnificent header from Long, rising above Glen Johnson, to beat Joe Hart in the England goal.
Sturridge was keen to make his mark on his first start for his country and he duly obliged when they drew level after 23 minutes. He showed neat footwork in the box before Lampard arrived with his trademark perfect timing to steer a close-range finish past Forde.
This was Sturridge's final contribution of any significance, though.
The former Chelsea forward pulled up while chasing Glenn Whelan back into a defensive position, instantly signalled that he was in trouble, and was taken away on a stretcher after being examined on the touchline.
England made two more substitutions at half-time, replacing Hart with Ben Foster - his first international appearance since November 2010 after making himself available once more - and Phil Jones coming on for Johnson.
Irish eyes smiling
The draw at Wembley stretches Republic of Ireland's unbeaten run against England to five games, dating back to 26 March 1985. On that day, goals from Trevor Steven and Gary Lineker gave England a 2-1 win over the Republic, for whom Liam Brady found the net.
Cole almost celebrated wearing the captain's armband with his first England goal in 102 appearances when he arrived in the six-yard box on the end of the impressive Walcott's cross but Sean St Ledger made a vital clearance.
Chelsea defender Cole then departed to warm applause as he was replaced by Leighton Baines after 53 minutes.
Walcott tested Forde with a low shot that the keeper was able to gather comfortably. England were searching for any spark of inspiration but the hard work and commitment of the Republic was keeping them at arm's length.
England's best chance fell to the feet of Oxlade-Chamberlain seven minutes from time as Wayne Rooney's pass found its way through to him, but Forde was quickly off his line to make an important block with his legs.
He then thwarted Walcott in similar fashion as he moved to Lampard's pass from the angle and England had to settle for a draw.
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Comment number 392.Alex_K89
31st May 2013 - 8:53
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