Roy Hodgson took the opportunity to test out some of his fringe players before September’s World Cup qualifiers, choosing to play Everton’s Euro benchwarmers Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka in a team that included Olympic success story Tom Cleverley and Liverpool’s Andy Carroll. Frank Lampard also featured alongside Michael Carrick, who made his international return following a two year absence from the England set-up.
The game, played in the half empty Stade de Suisse in Bern, could have easily had the feel of a pre-season friendly but England started the game brightly, with Manchester City’s Adam Johnson looking particularly lively on the right side of midfield. England never really conjured up any goal-scoring opportunities though and to Roy Hodgson’s frustration Italy took the lead from a corner-kick slightly against the run of play. Daniele De Rossi took full advantage of Michael Carrick’s lapse in concentration to power a header just underneath Jack Butland’s cross-bar, the young ‘keeper will be annoyed that he didn’t manage to get a hand to the ball.
Italy now looked to have the momentum with England beginning to see less possession, but some brilliant footwork from Johnson contributed to England winning a corner-kick as the half hour mark approached. It was then England’s turn to score against the run of play when Phil Jagielka guided the corner beyond Sirigu with a well taken diving header. England were reinvigorated and ended the 1st period the stronger of the two teams. Frank Lampard looked especially vivacious and he forced a save from Sirigu with a powerful shot from the edge of the box as half time approached.
Italy began the 2nd half brightly, with Roma’s Mattia Destro testing the awareness of John Ruddy with a stinging close range effort. Ruddy, who was on as a substitute for Butland at half time, managed to parry the danger. There was another chance soon after for the Italians though when Peluso averted the attention of Kyle Walker before hitting the side netting as the Azzuri began to build pressure on England’s goal during the early stages of the 2nd period.
Excessive substitutions curbed Italy’s early 2nd half tempo and whilst they continued to enjoy the better of possession, chances were at a premium until a cross by substitute James Milner wreaked havoc inside the Italy penalty area. Peluso’s contact forced a save from his own ‘keeper before Lescott’s attempt to hook in the rebound could only find the post.
The game subsequently sparked into life and Ruddy was forced into a save from Verrati. The resulting corner saw Ryan Bertrand clear with a header off the line and from the counter attack England found themselves ahead. James Milner, who continued his impressive form following Sunday’s Community Shield, threaded the decisive through-ball to Jermaine Defoe, who expertly cut in on his right before curling the ball into the top corner with a powerful strike. England could have doubled their lead late on when Milner rampaged into the box from the right, but as the Manchester City midfielder attempted to find Defoe with an ominous cut-back the ball was deflected narrowly wide by Peluso.
Cesare Prandelli will be disappointed that his more expansive approach to the game failed to pay off, especially when considering how England were toiling at times during the 2nd half as the Italian wing-backs incessantly bombed forward to support the Azzuri’s attacking moves. England did ride their luck at times tonight but Roy Hodgson will have learned a considerable amount about the players on the fringes of his starting XI as they pluckily earned a 2-1 victory over Prandelli’s Italy.
01 Butland (Ruddy – 46′ )
03 Baines (Bertrand – 78′ )
06 Jagielka (Lescott – 61′ )
08 Lampard (Livermore- 69′ )
11 Young (Milner – 62′ )
09 Carroll (Defoe – 46′ )
Jagielka ’27 & Defoe ’79.
06 Balzaretti (Peluso – 46′ )
20 Abate (Ezequiel Schelotto – 86′ )
07 El Shaarawy (Gabbiadini – 58′ )
10 Aquilani (Poli – 68′ )
16 De Rossi
22 Diamanti (Verratti – 59′ )
09 Mattia Destro (Fabbrini – 84′ Booked)
De Rossi ‘ 15
Man of the Match: James Milner (England)
Other Selected Friendly Results:
Northern Ireland 3-3 Finland
Serbia 0-0 Republic of Ireland
Wales 0-2 Bosnia H.
Scotland 3-1 Australia