• England 1-0 Belgium, International Friendly

Welbeck ensures England grind out another win

ESPN staff
June 2, 2012 « Dos Santos will fight Jon Jones if asked by the UFC | Chartbeat test »

Danny Welbeck's first goal for England ensured Roy Hodgson completed his preparations for Euro 2012 with a 1-0 friendly victory over Belgium.

In the second and final warm-up match ahead of the European Championship group stage opener against France in just over a week's time, Welbeck lifted the ball over the onrushing Simon Mignolet after 36 minutes to give the Three Lions a second successive 1-0 win.

In a generally uninspiring game at Wembley that saw the visitors dictate the play for much of the contest, Belgium's Guillaume Gillet hit the post in the second half with a sweetly-struck volley that was his side's best attempt at an equaliser - while Jermain Defoe nearly added extra emphasis to the scoreline in the closing stages after he hit the post following a fine turn and shot.

While the performance is unlikely to have pleased Hodgson, there was also genuine cause for concern for the Three Lions boss - after defender Gary Cahill was sent for an X-ray on his jaw following a collision with Joe Hart that forced the Chelsea man to be brought off.

Welbeck became England's youngest goalscorer since September 2008 and put himself in line for a starting berth in his team's Euro 2012 opener against France thanks to his well-taken first-half effort.

Whilst the choice between Welbeck and Andy Carroll does not quite amount to a dilemma that should keep Hodgson awake at night, England's new manager does at least have an option.

Carroll did reasonably well in Norway seven days ago, to the extent plenty have already pencilled him in for that Group D clash in Donetsk on June 11, but that opinion may have to be revised following Welbeck's performance.

Sir Bobby Charlton was amongst those present to receive a special UEFA commemoration of his achievement of reaching 100 caps, and England's record goalscorer must have been appreciative of Welbeck's first international goal - a delightful left-footed dink over Simon Mignolet after being set free by Manchester United team-mate Ashley Young.

It was one of the few high spots in a feisty contest, the biggest cheer of which was for the appearance of another England centurion - David Beckham - at half-time.

Skipper Gerrard's industry started the move Welbeck finished. He also had shocks blocked by Timmy Simons and Gillet in a frenzied spell towards the end of that first half.

Much earlier, Oxlade-Chamberlain's eyes must have lit up when James Milner rolled a cross invitingly into his path, only for his standing foot to give way as he was about to shoot, leaving him to beat the ground in frustration.

Belgium's only opportunity was created for Axel Witsel by Mertens, who was also responsible for the incident that ended with Cahill needing his X-ray.

Gary Cahill was pushed into Joe Hart - leading to his departure © Getty Images
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Partnering Chelsea team-mate John Terry at the heart of England's defence, Cahill was trying to shepherd the ball back to Hart when he was shoved in the back by Mertens and went crashing into his keeper.

It was a nasty collision and Cahill did not even try to continue, looking groggy as he ruefully rubbed his jaw on the way off.

Having to sweat on the outcome of medical checks was the last thing Hodgson needed, having already used his standby defender, Phil Jagielka, to replace Barry earlier in the week.

Cahill's replacement, Lescott, finished the game sporting an enormous Terry Butcher-style bandage after sustaining a nasty cut above the eye. Under the circumstances, Wayne Rooney might have been well out of it.

Hodgson brought him on though, utilising his star man for the first time, and the last until England face Ukraine on June 19, as Welbeck's input was brought to an end seven minutes after the restart.

Rooney ended the game as captain too, suggesting he will end up being Gerrard's deputy as skipper.

Fellow substitute Jermain Defoe later almost profited from Theo Walcott's lay-off as he rasped a shot against the far post.

Largely though, Belgium dominated, with Gillet firing a long-range effort against the outside of a post and Marouane Fellaini also coming close.

Imminent Chelsea new boy Eden Hazard sparkled at times without finding a breakthrough and it seems Hodgson's England will settle on a policy of being difficult to beat when they depart for their Krakow base on Wednesday.

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