England beats Switzerland 3-1 in Euro qualifier


England continue strong start with confident defeat of Switzerland

England Adam Johnson 006 England beats Switzerland 3 1 in Euro qualifier

England’s Adam Johnson, second right, celebrates with James Milner, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole after scoring the second goal against Switzerland. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images

England dominated much of this Euro 2012 qualifer yet still needed endurance after the injured Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe were both borne away on stretchers. An eventually spirited Switzerland even reduced the deficit despite having Stephan Lichtsteiner sent off, but Darren Bent, following an Ashley Cole pass, then scored his first international goal. That excellent drive in the 88th minute granted his team the sense of comfort they had deserved after a show of authority that was sustained from the early moments.

Wayne Rooney is scarcely the type to go into hiding merely because of the coverage of his private life. He could have done no more to claim prominence than to put England into the lead after 10 minutes with his first international goal since September 2009. Glen Johnson’s cut-back was turned in by the Manchester United player, but the move had been initiated by Walcott. The Arsenal attacker then continued into the goalmouth, where he took a blow to the right ankle in the general melee.

The winger was carried from the pitch and there had to be concerns for him although he sat up and looked composed while being ferried to the tunnel en route to a hospital X-ray. Adam Johnson came on to fill the vacancy and it was a promising post to inherit. Given the emphasis put on that flank Fabio Capello had seen weakness in the Sampdoria full-back Reto Ziegler. With 21 minutes gone, Johnson tore free in that area, only for Jermain Defoe to send the cut-back over the bar.

Whatever else went missing at the World Cup, Capello did not lose his boldness permanently. England were imbued with it before the interval here.

It was breathtaking for the Italian to prefer Joleon Lescott to either Gary Cahill or Matthew Upson, with the West Ham United defender looking a candidate for imminent rejection from England affairs.He was again denied a seat on the bench just as he had been last Friday in the win over Bulgaria. The return from injury of Rio Ferdinand or John Terry would probably complete the banishment. Lescott could have been surprised by the opportunity since he was making his first competitive start for his country since the leisurely 6-0 defeat of Andorra in June of last year.

The rationale was soon apparent when the athletic Lescott concentrated on dealing with Eren Derdiyok, the more powerful of the opposition’s strikers. The plan looked sound and was being implemented confidently, but there might have been a little regret the opposition’s disquiet was not exploited fully.

Switzerland are normally a secure side and neither they nor the home fans could quite come to terms with the degree of jeopardy, yet they stayed in contention and showed some modest signs of life on the verge of the interval. Shortly before that England had begun to make enquiries on their left flank. In the space of a few moments Ashley Cole and then James Milner could not quite set up Defoe when he was well-placed and unmarked.

Even so the confidence of England’s work then had been creditable as well as exciting. A lot of attention was paid to the defeat of Spain by Otmar Hitzfeld’s squad at this year’s World Cup, but the deeper insight into Switzerland’s worth lay in the qualifiers for that competition. The Swiss beat their closest rivals Greece in both matches and though their defensive organisation is well known, they also scored 18 times in their 10 matches. England impressed in the first half by making such strong defensive traits look extinct in their opponents.

Otmar Hitzfeld deserves his renown, but relieving Switzerland of their sense of inferiority was quite a task for the manager. Introducing the teenager Xherdan Shaqiri might almost have gone unnoticed although he was later to strike.

Rooney was soon making further inroads although Adam Johnson’s attempt to convert the cross with a first-time miscue that sent the ball behind. Capello’s only concern would have been that the opposition might start to feel relieved that their situation was not beyond recovery

Endurance has been their key trait under Hitzfeld. England had been buoyant for an hour and that period ended with Glen Johnson’s low shot from distance being tipped round the post by Diego Benaglio. Switzerland then began to find enterprise as they stretched England’s defence, but Hitzfeld’s team were then reduced to 10 men.

With 65 minute gone, the right-back Lichtsteiner brought down James Milner to receive a second yellow card from the Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli. England’s command looked misleadingly complete when Steven Gerrard put Adam Johnson through and the Manchester City player took the ball away from Benaglio before finishing.

England, who lost Defoe to injury, were not truly in control and the Shaqiri cut the deficit with a marvellous drive from distance.