Welbeck winner sinks Belgium

Date published: Saturday 2nd June 2012 7:08

But England, however, had another injury scare as Gary Cahill required an X-ray on his jaw after he was shoved into Joe Hart during this friendly victory.

The incident occurred in the early stages of the game, when Cahill was deliberately barged by Dries Mertens.

With Joleon Lescott needing a hefty bandage to cover a cut above his eye and skipper Steven Gerrard looking uncomfortable as he departed, it was a worrying end to a pretty dire week for manager Roy Hodgson, who has already lost experienced central midfield duo Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry to injury.

At least there was something else to occupy his mind as he sweated on the outcome, though, as Welbeck became England’s youngest goalscorer since September 2008 and put himself in line for a starting berth in his team’s Euro 2012 opener against France thanks to his well-taken first-half effort.

Whilst the choice between Welbeck and Andy Carroll does not quite amount to a dilemma that should keep Hodgson awake at night, England’s new manager does at least have an option.

Carroll did reasonably well in Norway seven days ago, to the extent plenty have already pencilled him in for that Group D clash in Donetsk on June 11.

That opinion may have to be revised following Welbeck’s performance.

One moment stood out before the goal as the 21-year-old chased down a pretty hopeless cause, retrieving the ball by the goal-line and then rolling it back to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Making his first England start, the 18-year-old flashed a shot narrowly wide.

It was the type of move it is hard to imagine Carroll setting up, even if the Liverpool man is a greater threat as a pure target man.

However, Welbeck has the additional quality of being a neat finisher too.

Sir Bobby Charlton was amongst those present to receive a special UEFA commemoration of his achievement of reaching 100 caps.

And England’s record goalscorer must have been appreciative of Welbeck’s first international goal – a delightful left-footed dink over Simon Mignolet after being set free by Manchester United team-mate Ashley Young.

It was one of the few high spots in a feisty contest, the biggest cheer of which was for the appearance of another England centurion – David Beckham – at half-time.

Skipper Gerrard’s industry started the move Welbeck finished. He also had shocks blocked by Timmy Simons and Guillame Gillet in a frenzied spell towards the end of that first half.

Much earlier, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s eyes must have lit up when James Milner rolled a cross invitingly into his path, only for his standing foot to give way as he was about to shoot, leaving him to beat the ground in frustration.

Belgium’s only opportunity was created for Axel Witsel by Mertens, who was also responsible for the incident that ended with Cahill needing his X-ray.

Partnering Chelsea team-mate John Terry at the heart of England’s defence, Cahill was trying to shepherd the ball back to Hart when he was shoved in the back by Mertens and went crashing into his keeper.

It was a nasty collision and Cahill did not even try to continue, looking groggy as he ruefully rubbed his jaw on the way off.

Having to sweat on the outcome of medical checks was the last thing Hodgson needed, having already used his standby defender, Phil Jagielka, to replace Barry earlier in the week.

Indeed, the whole contest was far more physical that Hodgson would have wanted.

Trevor Cherry remains the only England player to get himself sent off in a friendly but Ashley Cole and Scott Parker were both booked as the tackles flew in from both sides.

Cahill’s replacement, Lescott, finished the game sporting an enormous Terry Butcher-style bandage after sustaining a nasty cut above the eye.

Under the circumstances, Wayne Rooney might have been well out of it.

Hodgson brought him on though, utilising his star man for the first time, and the last until England face Ukraine on June 19, as Welbeck’s input was brought to an end seven minutes after the restart.

Rooney ended the game as captain too, suggesting he will end up being Gerrard’s deputy as skipper.

Fellow substitute Jermain Defoe later almost profited from Theo Walcott’s lay-off as he rasped a shot against the far post.

Largely though, Belgium dominated, with Gillet firing a long-range effort against the outside of a post and Marouane Fellaini also coming close.

Imminent Chelsea new boy Eden Hazard sparkled at times without finding a breakthrough and it seems Hodgson’s England will settle on a policy of being difficult to beat when they depart for their Krakow base on Wednesday.

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