First things first,
I loved the new strip, much better than the awful white and blue of
As for the match, it wasn't a bad game
A new man at the helm, lots of young
footballers picked in the team, and under a new captain too.
In the end there was some promise and much to
The visit of the
would give this new look England
set-up a stern test and almost all of their big stars were present at
Wembley. In fact they
looked positively buoyant to be back at the home of football, and even
more determined to gain a victory.
This made it doubly difficult for 'Pearce's Puppies' as there
were some very experienced international players in the Dutch ranks,
and no little amount of skill.
Although there was a slightly nervous start from
the opening salvoes saw both teams good going forward but a little
less clever at the back.
There were chances at both ends in a first-half that was high on
effort but with little pattern developing.
Gary Cahill headed just over from a corner and then a Pieters'
cross to the far post had Joe Hart flapping a little.
Danny Welbeck was full of running but lacked a decent pass from
his midfield, and any meaningful support.
New skipper Scott Parker busied himself in the middle and also
made some superb blocks to stifle Dutch attacks.
He was also always on hand to receive a pass from his
did step up the pace at times and Arjen Robben, the star of the night
for the visitors, was a constant thorn to
He has had a poor season for his club this year but on the
night he revelled at being back in
England, and in the atmosphere of
Wembley, and showed all his qualities.
On 13 minutes his angled shot was well blocked by Hart, but it
was a warning of things to come.
It was alarming to see how much space
afforded Holland at times
and only desperate defending blocked a Robin Van Persie shot.
In the 25th minute
created a good chance of their own, when Adam Johnson made a very
positive run into the area. He
twisted and turned and his final goalbound shot deflected off John
Heitinga to go just wide.
From the corner England
had two more near misses and then good play between Johnson and Micah
Richards ended with a Gareth Barry shot also being blocked.
It had been a good little spell from
and some of the Dutch defending was rather desperate.
Richards was looking strong on his return to the
side, but there was a blow for England
when Steven Gerrard went off and had to be substituted by Daniel
man was soon in the game and Parker sent him away down the right and
the forward did brilliantly to put in a low centre which was begging
to be put away. Alas, not
for the first, or last, time on the night,
England's inexperience showed in that
there was no one close enough to take advantage.
still tried to press forward though and on 41 minutes Ashley Young
finally made a telling contribution with a fine cross into the middle.
Again the chance was lost as both Chris Smalling and Richards
missed the ball. Young
then headed over in another attack but the half ended goalless.
An early yellow card for Richards for a foul on
Robben was the first incident of note after the restart although on 47
minutes a terrific effort by Sturridge almost broke the deadlock.
His quick, low shot brought a fine diving save out of Martin
Stekelenburg, who pushed the ball round a post.
At this point of the match England had had their fair share of
the match but you always felt Holland were very dangerous when going
forward and there was another warning when substitute Huntelaar, on as
sub for Van Persie, shot inches wide from a 53rd minute
attack. Then, three
minutes later came a significant turning point.
Robben picked up a deflection well inside his own
half and then proceeded to run at the back-peddling home defenders.
The pace and control of the Bayern Munich player set alarm
bells ringing as several England players were caught out of position.
Huntelaar cleverly took Smalling away from the middle and
Robben was able to sway onto his favoured left foot and drive an
unstoppable shot past Hart.
It was a superb goal.
If that was a blow for
then almost immediately it was 2-0.
The ball was fed to Dirk Kuyt out on the right and he had all
the time in the world to measure a perfect cross onto the head of the
impressive Huntelaar, and again Hart had no chance.
As the striker scored there was a sickening clash of heads with
Smalling and both players had to go off injured, Smalling, more
worryingly, on a stretcher.
It was a bitter period for
and they were visibly shaken by all that had happened in that two
Phil Jones came on for Smalling and Stewart
Downing replaced Johnson.
In fact with his first touch Downing almost scored, but his excellent
volley went wide of the far post.
Richards moved into the middle with Jones at right-back as
Stuart Pearce shuffled his troops.
But Holland were controlling the play now and Robben was using
all his experience to draw fouls from the young England side, as well
as keeping Hart on his toes everytime he got close to goal.
Richards blocked one Robben shot as England desperately held
The home side were not quite out of it though and
Sturridge missed a glorious chance when Leighton Baines popped up in
the box to shoot across goal.
Sturridge couldn't quite adjust his feet to side-foot into an
open goal from close range.
around six minutes left Welbeck, who had run himself to a standstill,
was replaced by debutant Frazer Campbell and a minute later England
came back into it.
found Cahill standing all alone in the centre-forward position, and
the big defender showed some great footwork to beat a defender and
shoot under Stekelenburg's diving body.
It was a gift from the Gods, especially as there was a slight
suspicion of offside against Cahill.
But England were to take full advantage and right on 90 minutes
they conjured up a superb equaliser.
Parker, sub Theo Walcott and Jones combined brilliantly, and
Jones's pass to Young gave the Manchester United the chance to clip
the ball over the diving keeper.
It was a magnificent finish and seemed to set England up for an
unlikely result. But
unfortunately that man Robben had not finished his night's work.
Some naïve defending gave Robben time and space
and although his curling shot took a wicked deflection off Cahill to
beat the unfortunate Hart, it was probably no less than Holland
deserved for their lively attacking play.
It was another bitter blow for England though,
especially as they had done so well to come back from an impossible
position. Several home
players can be pleased with their performance but as one of the
pundits said, the game has probably raised more questions for England
than answers. The months
ahead should be quite interesting.