Norway 0 England 1: Young hits winner but it's back to the future for Roy's Three Lions


Young at heart: The Manchester United winger opens the scoring in Norway with nine minutes gone

England expects little from its national football team these days, which is perhaps just as well.
Effective rather than spectacular might have been Roy Hodgson's career maxim, though England would readily settle for that given recent past failures.
And here, Hodgson finally had his chance to manage England in practice, having spent much of the past month being asked to talk about it in theory.
While the performance may have been distinctly underwhelming, he will have been quietly encouraged by a narrow victory, even if his team spent much of the second half on the back foot against a mediocre side.
The serene surroundings of the Ullevaal Stadium, hills bedecked with pine forests glinting in the evening Scandinavian sun, can be deceptive.

England suffered two of their greatest humiliations here in 1981 and 1993. Veteran Norway coach Egil Olsen, architect of that '93 victory, had never lost in four outings against England.
Hodgson's team, of course, was far from his first XI. Joe Hart was rested, Steven Gerrard only played a half and Gary Cahill, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard are yet to join the squad - as is Wayne Rooney, though he is suspended for the opening two Euro 2012 games.
Nevertheless, there were some conclusions to be drawn. For one, there will be no stampede to the bookmakers to get late money on England as shock contenders for Euro 2012: a quarter-final is the likely extent of their capabilities.

All smiles: Young celebrates with captain Gerrard after giving England the lead

Up for the battle: Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard flies into a tackle

And, it seems England will be going back to the future. Having spent decades edging nervously away from the straight lines of a 4-4-2 formation, they reverted to type in a return to that set-up with a team that might that might have been stamped 'Made in England'.
There was some flexibility, in that either Andy Carroll or Ashley Young would drop deeper to link up at times, but there was precious little fluidity between midfield and attack.

Hodgson looks on as the former Baggies boss takes charge of his first England game

No player operated in those dangerous areas, outside of the conventional lines of formation, that the best teams tend to exploit. Some adventure came later, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 18, making his debut and operating centrally, behind Carroll, but he could make little impact in a 17-minute cameo.
That Young-Carroll axis led to the opening goal. Carroll, holding the ball up on halfway, managed to play in Young, who charged goalwards. When he reached the penalty area, he executed a delightful dummy to earn himself the space required to shoot across Rune Jarstein and open the scoring on nine minutes. Norway's defending was beyond lax. Their holding midfielder, Alex Tettey, was nowhere to be seen and Fulham's Brede Hangeland appallingly static as Young glided past.

Head boy: Carroll led the line for England in Norway

Gerrard exhorted his colleagues in his new role as captain but was fortunate to escape with only a lecture from referee Michael Weiner after a studs-raised challenge on Tom Hogli led to the Norway right-back being substituted.
At half-time, as expected, the skipper was replaced by Gareth Barry. Once Gerrard and Scott Parker were withdrawn, with James Milner coming in from his wide position to join Barry, they ended up conceding possession and control of the game. That has been the default failing of

Centre of attention: Gary Neville sits alongside Hodgson and co on the England bench

But Group D opponents France will relish such wastefulness as they boast a midfield including Yohan Cabaye, Yann M'Vila and Samir Nasri.
Stewart Downing crossed for a diving Carroll header on four minutes before retreating to the fringes. He was replaced by Adam Johnson on 85 minutes, one of a flurry of substitutions that included Martin Kelly making his England debut, coming on for Phil Jones after 88 minutes.

In trouble: Barry limped off with a groin injury

Robert Green, playing his first international since his awful gaffe against the USA in the first game of the 2010 World Cup finals, did look secure. He pushed away Markus Henriksen's spinning shot and later reacted smartly to parry a John Arne Riise drive to the near post after the Fulham left-back had embarrassed substitute Theo Walcott for his clear run at goal.
For England, there was Young volley high over the bar and a brief flurry from James Milner down the right which ended with a shot into the belly of Jarstein. Leighton Baines went close on with a free-kick that somehow breached the wall and required a sharp one-handed save from Jarstein. But the rest of Europe will rest easy on this showing.

Debut: Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for the away side in the second half

source: dailymail


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