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Welbeck strikes as England down Belgium

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02 Jun 2012 19:47:10

Welbeck strikes as England down Belgium

England wrapped up their pre-tournament preparations for Euro 2012 with a 1-0 win over Belgium at Wembley on Saturday courtesy of Danny Welbeck's maiden international goal.

Manchester United youngster Welbeck struck on 37 minutes to make it two wins out of two for new England manager Roy Hodgson following last weekend's 1-0 victory over Norway in Oslo.

The 21-year-old's cool finish was a rare moment of class from England, who struggled to create genuine goalscoring chances in their last game before their daunting Euro 2012 opener against France in Donetsk on June 11.

Arsenal teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made the most of his first senior start, but blazed over after eight minutes following James Milner's cutback.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was off-target again moments later after Ashley Cole released Welbeck down the left, shooting over once more.

The festive mood amongst both sets of fans was not matched by players in the middle meanwhile, and the opening exhanges were notable for a string of feisty collisions which led to bookings for both teams.

Dries Mertens was the first to be cautioned on 17 minutes for a sly shove on Gary Cahill that sent the Chelsea defender crashing into goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Cahill, who replaced by Joleon Lescott, was given a precautionary x-ray at Wembley following the incident.

Scott Parker then earned a yellow after a late challenge on Jan Vertonghen, the Ajax centre-half who has been linked with a move to Tottenham this summer.

Belgium looked far more comfortable in possession but a forward line with no natural predator lacked the cutting edge to unlock a solid English back four.

England by contrast looked happy to wait for openings, and their opening goal came with a rapier-like break from midfield.

Welbeck and Steven Gerrard won the ball in midfield and fed Ashley Young who in turn threaded a superb pass to Welbeck, who lifted the deftest of finishes above the advancing Simon Mignolet.

Gerrard had two shots blocked in quick succession shortly before half-time after desperate defending from Timmy Simons and Guillaume Gillet but the score remained 1-0 at the interval.

With England making a flurry of changes in the opening period of the second half the game lost its rhythm, and the edge that had been present in the opening 45 minutes quickly dissipated.

Welbeck made way for Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney on 53 minutes while soon afterwards Young, Oxlade-Chamberlain and John Terry were replaced by Jermain Defoe, Theo Walcott and Phil Jagielka.

The changes did nothing to increase England's potency, and Mignolet did not have a save to make throughout the second half.

Gillet went close to levelling for Belgium on 78 minutes when his thunderous long-range effort flashed off the post.

Four minutes later England had their best chance of the second half, Walcott releasing Defoe whose low angled strike cannoned back off the foot of the post.


AFP

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