Capello’s youngsters show their mettle against Ghana
England’s ‘green generation’ put on a fine show in friendly with World Cup quarter-finalists
England 1 Ghana 1. As pointless fixtures go, this was an entertaining match, a 1-1 draw that owed much to the enthusiasm of the visitors and the willingness of the second-string England team to impress their coach. Perhaps all England matches in future should take place without the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole; at least there would be 11 players wearing the England shirt with pride.
"It was an exciting game, a fast game, a really important game for the fans to know some players who never played," said England coach Fabio Capello afterwards. "It was also interesting for me to know the value of these players to play here at Wembley in a senior shirt... the players played without fear and with confidence."
They did – with Leighton Baines, James Milner, Stewart Downing and Ashley Young particularly impressive – but then there's not much to fear in a midweek friendly against Ghana. The test will come in the competitive matches, a test that England players have a habit of failing; so it will be interesting to see if in June, when England play Switzerland in their next Euro 2012 qualifier, Capello reverts to the disinterested 'golden' generation or if he sticks with the 'green' generation.
Andy Carroll it was who scored England's goal three minutes before half-time but the Ghanaians had been softened up by the lively running of wingmen Young and Downing, who did for England what they regularly do for Aston Villa. Not that Ghana weren't creating chances of their own in a high-tempo first half, and Dominic Adiyiah could have given the visitors the lead early on but for the sharp reactions of Joe Hart in the England goal.
Carroll's goal – his first for England in his second appearance – was created by Young's pace and pass to Downing, who in turn teed up the Liverpool striker for a low shot past Richard Kingson. It never felt, however, that it would be the only goal of the game, though the Ghana fans had to wait until injury time for the equaliser.
Asamoah Gyan shook off the attentions of Joleon Lescott before weaving his way into space and bending a shot round the despairing dive of Joe Hart. It sent the 20,000 visiting fans suitably potty and was just reward for a tireless Ghanian side who only two days earlier were in the Congo playing in the Africa Cup of Nations.
"It's great to be playing again and to have scored a goal," said Andy Carroll later, adding: "I enjoyed playing in the 4-3-3 formation. I'm here and ready to score goals if picked."
And his boss declared himself happy with the performance, saying: "Carroll needs more time to improve but he's a really important player," said Capello, who 24 hours earlier had warned Carroll about his partying habits. And asked if he would permit the Liverpool striker to sink a beer to celebrate his first goal for his country, Capello flashed a smile and said. "That is a question really for Kenny Dalglish."