England 1-0 Sweden: Own goal gives Fabio another win
Published 21:57 15/11/11 By Martin Lipton
Another step in the right direction. Another win and the end of the 43 years of Swedish hurt.
ll right, so the goal that did it was scrappy, with the FA keen to give England's 2,000th's goal to Gareth Barry rather than acknowledge the true source.
But after beating Spain, the key thing Fabio Capello needed was to see further evidence that the momentum is building as he prepares to discover his side's Euro 2012 fate in Kiev next month.
He saw it too, with enough players flowering under returning skipper John Terry to sense confidence and conviction is returning.
Yes, there can be quibbles. At times the ball was squandered too easily, Bobby Zamora fluffed his big audition, while Capello spent most of the second half bellowing at Kyle Walker, who has to work on his positioning, Daniel Sturridge did not impress off the bench.
Walker, though, one of three making their first England start, gave energy and dynamism to the right flank, demonstrating a natural understanding with Theo Walcott.
In midfield, Phil Jones revelled as the holder, giving a balance that allowed the full-backs to canter forward, while Jack Rodwell, despite missing a sitter, confirmed the positive impression he had made against Spain.
And after 32 appearances, going back five and a half years, Stewart Downing finally looked like a genuine international player.
Of course it helped that the Swedes, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic doing nothing to alter perceptions of his ability, were toothless, looking like a side Capello would not be displeased to come out of the hat in his side's group in a fortnight.
But this was always going to be about England, about whether Capello's much-changed team could build on the Spanish win. Let there be no doubt, they did.
Two wins in four days, making 2011 England's first unbeaten calendar year since 1996, and enough to mean they will go above Brazil when the next FIFA rankings are released next month.
All accomplished without Wayne Rooney - UEFA hold his destiny in their hands next month - Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere or Ashley Young.
More importantly, by far, the knowledge that Capello has far more options now than in 2010, maybe 30 players demanding a place in the final 23 he take with him to Krakow next summer.
For Walker, Rodwell and Zamora in particular, this was going to be a big night. Jones appears a shoe-in, although his situation has surely been cemented despite not playing yet in his natural role at centre-back.
Zamora, willing as he was, could not take it, drilling his best chance - after Walker and Walcott showed their instincts - into the side-netting, seeing another deflected wide.
The others, though, seized their day.
Walker has waited the best part of a year since his first squad selection but showed he can be an upgrade on Glen Johnson, so keen to get forward and with blistering pace.
Rodwell, too, has had to show patience but appears to be one of those players who will raise his game to meet the company around him.
On another day, the Everton youngster could have have two and he certainly should have scored his first, heading against the outside of the post when the goal was gaping from Downing's superb centre three yards out just before the break.
By that stage, deservedly, England were a goal to the good.
Few could have predicted Barry would be credited with England's 2,000th goal, even fewer who saw the direction-changing deflection off Daniel Majstorovic when the Manchester City man got his head to Downing's cross.
Officially, though, it was Barry's third England goal and after that, with Joe Hart making a fine save from Rasmus Elm's wickedly inswinging corner - similar to a stop Scott Carson made from Seb Larsson late-on - they could have been out of sight.
Rodwell, picked out by Leighton Baines - secure as Ashley Cole's understudy - saw his hooked volley deflected narrowly wide while a trademark Jones surge, in the manner of, perhaps, Bryan Robson, deserved a better finish than the flick outside the upright before Rodwell headed against the woodwork.
The second half saw more, Downing creating for Zamora and, with a great run and strike, himself, while James Milner was inches away from finding fellow replacement Darren Bent in front of the net.
Once again, one was enough. Winning is a good habit. England are starting to enjoy it.