Two-goal skipper Steven Gerrard helped England start their post FIFA World Cup™ campaign with a 2-1 victory over Hungary at Wembley.
England fell behind to an own goal from Phil Jagielka, but Gerrard equalised after 69 minutes and netted the winner four minutes later to help silence the boos which had greeted most of the players involved in South Africa.
England manager Fabio Capello handed first starts to goalkeeper Joe Hart and winger Adam Johnson. Hart was always likely to be between the posts given the withdrawal from the squad of the now retired Paul Robinson and the injured Ben Foster. He was part of England's FIFA World Cup™ squad but did not taste any action, with Robert Green and then David James taking on the duties.
His Manchester City team-mate Johnson was overlooked for South Africa after being part of Capello's initial 30-man squad. Everton defender Jagielka, who suffered a cruciate ligament injury towards the end of the 2008/09 campaign, was in the first XI for only the second time. Capello fielded seven of the side who 45 days ago had been defeated 4-1 by Germany in Bloemfontein in Glen Johnson, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney.
In the second half we saw some different young players, and their performance was very good. I think we have found some new players for the future.
England began promisingly and Hungarian defender Zoltan Liptak had to concede a corner under pressure from Rooney following a Steven Gerrard free-kick. The Manchester United striker had the ball in the net in the third minute after running onto a pass from Gerrard but he had strayed half a yard offside.
Jagielka volleyed a first-time effort into the side-netting after Hungary failed to deal with a Gerrard corner. England forced five corners in the first seven minutes, an indication of their early dominance. Adam Johnson squandered a golden chance to put England ahead after 13 minutes after Glen Johnson and Theo Walcott had combined down the right. Walcott cut the ball back across the area invitingly into the path of Adam Johnson but from 12 yards out he lofted his shot over the bar.
Balazs Dzsudzsak carved half a chance for himself when cutting inside Cole but John Terry deflected his low shot for a corner. Cole made a good break into the Hungarian box but his eventual cross was too far in front of Rooney. Dzsudzsak was posing a threat on the right for Hungary and he again threatened danger when cutting inside Cole, but this time the Chelsea defender was able to recover and deflect his eventual shot over the bar.
Gabor Kiraly came racing out of his area to hack clear from Gerrard after he had beaten the offside trap. Walcott, who had also been overlooked for the FIFA World Cup, was looking sharp and was switching flanks with Adam Johnson every few minutes. It was from one of the free-kicks won by the Arsenal youngster that Kiraly made his first worthwhile save after 33 minutes.
Gerrard's inswinging effort from the left of the box contained plenty of power. Former Crystal Palace player Kiraly was forced to finger-tip the ball over the bar at full stretch. Rooney looked as if he was still short of full sharpness after only playing two half games for United since returning to training a fortnight ago. The half-time whistle was greeted with the loudest outburst of boos to that point from the crowd of 72,024.
Capello made four half-time changes with Kieran Gibbs, Bobby Zamora and Michael Dawson winning their first caps while Ashley Young was also brought into the action. It meant that seven of the England players on the pitch had only 21 caps between them. Terry, Cole, Walcott and Lampard were the players who made way for the quartet. Hungary, meanwhile, made three alterations with Zsolt Laczko, Vladimir Koman and Tamas Hajnal replacing Vilmos Vanczak, Dzsudzsak and Szaboics Huszti.
Young was soon in the thick of the action, curling a cross just wide and sending a low centre just in front of Zamora. Gerrard was just too high with a first-time effort after being teed up on the edge of the box by Rooney. Adam Johnson was too high with a 25-yard effort after a free-kick routine with Gerrard had initially backfired. Kiraly then dealt comfortably enough with a dipping attempt from the same player.
After 62 minutes England went behind through a goal which evoked painful memories of Frank Lampard's effort against Germany in Bloemfontein. Jagielka deflected a shot from Hungarian skipper Zoltan Gera towards his own goal with Dawson making a spectacular clearance. However, referee's assistant Fredji Harchay signalled that the ball had crossed the line and Hungary celebrated.
England needed only seven minutes to draw level through Gerrard who collected a pass from Ashley Young in his stride and beat Kiraly with a swerving shot.
Four minutes later Gerrard completed England's recovery by scoring his second. Young was again involved with a pass to the Liverpool player whose trickery took him into a yard of space before he poked his low shot wide of Kiraly. Then Zamora had a 20-yard volley from the angle of the box turned over at full stretch by Kiraly.
Gerrard left the field to a standing ovation when replaced by a fourth debutant in Arsenal's Jack Wilshere with eight minutes remaining.
Hart denied Gera an 89th equaliser when he blocked a shot from the Fulham midfielder. At the other end Adam Johnson was only just too high with a powerful drive. Kiraly then did well to keep out a glancing header from Zamora as England ended in the ascendancy.
"I am happy with the performance, we played well in the first 30 minutes, but the last ten minutes of the first half were not so good," said Capello. "They were really compact and it was difficult to find space.
"In the second half we saw some different young players, and their performance was very good. It was important for them to play here at Wembley and not away from home. I think we have found some new players for the future."