Euro Qualifiers: Player Ratings for England and Wales After Unimpressive Win
England put themselves in pole position to top their qualifying group with a 1-0 victory of neighbours Wales at Wembley Tuesday. The result leaves Fabio Capello's men needing only a point when they travel to Montenegro in order to win Group G and secure their place in Poland/Ukraine 2012. While the result will please England's fans, the performance will not.
England were clearly the better team in the first half but didn't create as many chances as they should have given their domination of the possession. Coming off an impressive display of attacking football and an excellent win in Sofia, England were expected to give Wales a bit of a footballing lesson and in the first half they did looked like they might indeed do that, deservedly going in ahead following Ashley Young's goal.
The second half was a different story, though. England came out and likely expected to add further goals and run out comfortable winners. Wales had different ideas, however, and clearly came out after a telling off from manager Gary Speed.
Wales were the better team in the second half and even the staunchest England fan must agree that they were unlucky not to get a point out of this game. Wales can take great pride from this performance and will look to build on it in their remaining qualifying games.
England, as I mentioned, now need only one point from their trip to Podgorica but they will need to improve on this performance if they are to secure that point. They were missing a number of players tonight, but they still should have comfortably beaten a Welsh team that sit some 110 places behind them in the current FIFA rankings.
Based on this performance, while England may sit fourth in those rankings, they are certainly not one of Europe's elite and it's hard to imagine the Dutch, Spanish, German or Italian teams losing much sleep over having to face them next summer.
And on that note, on to the ratings.
England Goalkeeper and Defence
Hart - Had little to do, but did most of it very well. Made one world-class save from Chris Gunter although play had been stopped as the Welsh fullback was adjudged to have fouled Ashley Young. The big question is, what was he wearing? 7 out of 10.
Smalling - He's not a fullback and that was pretty evident on this display. His position sense is not what it should be and he was caught of position a few times. Definitely the weak link in the England defence at the moment. Hard to see him keeping his place on this display. 6 out of 10.
Terry - A typical John Terry display. Solid, took no chances and gave little away. Had a bit of a tough time when Earnshaw came on and ran at him, as he's not always comfortable when forced to backpedal, but all in all a solid performance. 7 out of 10.
Cahill - Very simply, Gary Cahill is England's best central defender and should retain his position even when Rio Ferdinand returns from injury. Very composed throughout, read the game fantastically as always, passed the ball well from the back and came close to scoring. 7 out of 10.
Cole - The best left back in the world gave a typically assured display by marking Gareth Bale out of the the game and rendering Wales' biggest threat a non-factor. It was the 91st internationally cap for Cole. Put your money on him breaking Peter Shilton's record of 125 England caps; nobody is taking Cole's jersey any time soon. 7 out of 10.
Milner - Brought into the side to replace Theo Walcott, Milner gave a good account of himself. He worked hard all over the pitch and tried to drive England forward at every opportunity. Made a couple of good runs towards the Welsh goal and seemed to cause the Welsh defenders problems as he roamed from flank to flank. Put in a good defensive shift along side Barry and was, with his Manchester City teammate, probably England's best player. 7.5 out of 10.
Lampard - Dropped for the match against Bulgaria and on this display it's obvious why. A poor performance and one that may signal that Lampard's days as an England player are coming to an end. When Jack Wilshere returns from injury, Lampard will likely be the one to miss out. Good news for Chelsea fans though as fewer games mean a fitter Frank for the Blues. 5 out of 10.
Barry - Never a popular selection with England fans (or Joey Barton), the much-maligned Barry put in a good performance for England. He worked hard, tackled well, closed down the Welsh midfield, passed the ball very simply but very well and also made two excellent forward runs in the second half. It will be interesting to see who gets the defensive midfield spot when Wilshere and Gerrard return and when he has to compete directly with Scott Parker. 7.5 out of 10.
Downing - England's best attacking player in the first half, Downing has stepped his game up since his summer move to Liverpool and has not translated his club form to the international stage. Showed good pace and good awareness to beat Joe Ledley and pull the ball back perfectly to Ashley Young for the only goal. Not as influential in the second half as the tide turned and Wales began to take control of the game. 7.5 out of 10.
Young - Like his former Aston Villa teammate Downing, Young has come on in leaps and bounds since his big-money summer move. Continued his fine goal-scoring start to the season with an expert finish from Downing's pullback. Caused Wales a lot of problems coming in off the left wing onto his right foot and came close to a second goal late in the second half. 7.5 out of 10.
Rooney - Not his best game, seemed intent on dropping too deep in an attempt to win the game by himself. Frustrated by the lack of service perhaps but it's very hard for midfielders and wingers to provide service if their centre forward is 40 yards from goal. England will need him to be a lot better if they are to get a result in Montenegro. 6 out of 10.
Scott Parker for Frank Lampard - Regardless of what Capello says, this was a defensive move. Parker was brought onto to solidify the English midfield, and he did just that. 6 out of 10
Adam Johnson for Stewart Downing - This seemed to be a move made just to waste time. Johnson was not on the field long enough to have any impact. No Mark.
Andy Carroll for Wayne Rooney - Token gesture from Capello to the striker he blasted in the press this week. Another change made solely to waste time. Ninety seconds isn't long enough to make an impression. No Mark.
Wales Goalkeeper and Defence
Wayne Hennessey - Will have expected to be busier tonight. That was not the case and he was rarely tested. Had little chance with the goal and dealt with everything that came his way pretty well. 7 out of 10.
Chris Gunter - Defended well and was a constant outlet for Wales as he bombed forward. Unfortunately his final ball let him down time and again when Wales needed him to produce. A good showing from the Notts Forest right back, but will need to improve if he is to keep his place in the team. 6.5 out of 10.
Darcy Blake - Quickly becoming his nation's best defender and definitely a player with a big future ahead of him. Defended very well and made several good forays forward. Should really have had an assist, and would have one if the ball had dropped to Earnshaw on any other day. 7.5 out of 10.
Ashley Williams - As the most experienced member of the Welsh back four, he was expected to talk his three young teammates through the match and he did exactly that. He should have been closer to Ashley Young for the England goal and he will know that. Solid performance though. 6.5 out of 10.
Neil Taylor - Given a bit of a roasting by Stewart Downing in the first half. Improved in the second half but it was his lapse in focus that left him out of position and Joe Ledley trying to mark Stewart Downing for the England goal. 5.5 out of 10.
Gareth Bale - A big disappointment for me. I was expecting a lot more from Bale but he failed to really trouble England. Why he was played on the right is a mystery. He was guilty of taking too many touches on too many occasions. 6 out of 10.
Jack Collison - It's great to see the West Ham youngster back at full fitness. I'm a big fan of the versatile midfielder and feel he will play a key part in the future of this young Welsh team as they attempt to become the first team to represent their country at a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. With the right guidance I think it's possible in the next 4-6 years. I would have preferred to see Collison on the right, but he did a good job in the centre of midfield. 7 out of 10.
Andrew Crofts - The Norwich City midfield can be pleased with his evening's work. He worked tirelessly to stem the flow of England attacks in the first half, and provided the platform for Ramsey to dictate the play in the second half. 7 out of 10.
Aaron Ramsey - Arsene Wenger will be delighted to see Ramsey playing so well and will be hoping he brings this form back to his club side as they will need him given the recent news on Jack Wilshere. Ramsey was behind everything good that Wales did tonight and was deservedly named man of the match. 8 out of 10.
Joe Ledley - I thought Speed made a mistake picking him over Andy King and I still feel the same now. Ledley worked hard for his team but he provided little in the way of an attacking threat. I can't help but feel that with Collison and Bale on the wings, and Ramsey and King playing in the attacking midfield roles, Wales might have gotten a result. Ledley failed to test the shaky Smalling who was the weak link in England's back four. 6.5 out of 10.
Steve Morison - Playing as a lone striker is a thankless task at the best of times. Morison worked hard for his team but never troubled the English back four. Wales missed Craig Bellamy in a huge way tonight. Morison let nobody down but he doesn't seem to be an international-class striker in my opinion. 6.5 out of 10.
Robert Earnshaw for Steve Morison - Earnshaw's performance can be summed up in three words: WHAT. A. MISS. It really was shocking. Five yards out with the goalkeeper nowhere nearby, you really need to be scoring at this level. Earnshaw has always had trouble performing against top competition and this is an indicator why. 5.5 out of 10.
Andy King for Jack Collison - Why did Speed leave it so late to make this change? King is a goal scorer and Wales were chasing the game. Very strange move from the Welsh manager. King wasn't given enough time to do anything. No Mark.
Have I been too hard on some players? Too lenient on others?
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