Ashley Young and Darren Bent make Wales pay for their defensive nap

England prevailed in Cardiff by ruthlessly exploiting Wales's dreamy start.

Ashley Young and Darren Bent make Wales pay for their defensive nap The first 20 minutes of any game sets the pattern for the match to come and, by surrendering possession too easily with an insistence to play out of defence, the Welsh were caught napping at the back with spaces galore opening up. The home side simply invited England on to them and there was no recovering from that opening spell.

With the hosts' left-back, Danny Collins, either pushing forward towards Frank Lampard on the right of England's midfield, or getting too tight on Ashley Young, England speedily plugged the space vacated with early passes. Ashley Williams needed to push over more quickly to cover with the remaining two defenders, James Collins and Chris Gunter, similarly ferrying across field. As it was, Young exploited the slow reactions of the left-back as he raced beyond for Glen Johnson's splendid long pass to supply Darren Bent with the second goal.

England's front line was full of irresistible running. Bent could happily charge into space if Young chose not to make the dart down the flank, so open were Wales at the back. Whereas Steve Morison was too isolated and saw little support from his wide men, Craig Bellamy and Andy King, who had been placed too wide to support, Young and Wayne Rooney were always willing to drift in from the flanks to back up Bent. That allowed Ashley Cole and Johnson to raid down the outside. Full-backs can thrive like that only if the team is comfortable in possession, something England achieved with the superiority established in the centre by Lampard, Jack Wilshere and Scott Parker.

Had Wales paired Bellamy with Morrison as a twosome and played more directly to attempt to trouble England's backline and make them turn and face their own goal, Wales would have roused some passion from the crowd. But in those vital early minutes they played short, square and negatively, allowing England to pounce. Bypassing the midfield in a 4-4-2, with the central quartet narrow, would surely have been a better option in this game. No doubt Gary Speed will learn more than Fabio Capello from this contest.

To be fair to the rookie Wales manager, he tightened his back four in the second period and Bellamy's cross‑field sorties caused a little concern. But this was a tough baptism for a young manager. A trio of Gareth Bales could not have bailed him out as Parker, Lampard and Wilshere comfortably controlled the middle third throughout. The only criticism of the visitors was that against weaker teams England must be more ruthless. They could not create enough second‑half chances to ram home their superiority and, even at £15 a ticket, spectators are justified in expecting to see more goalmouth action than that served up after the break. Comfortable in possession and dominant in midfield, England were strolling.

Powered by article was written by David Pleat, for The Guardian on Monday 28th March 2011 00.06 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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