England secured a second 1-0 victory in as many games under new manager Roy Hodgson as another efficient performance saw them edge out Belgium in their final Euro 2012 warm-up match.
After last Saturday’s one-goal win in Norway, all eyes were on Wembley to see if the Three Lions could follow that up against a talented Belgian side.
A first senior international goal from Danny Welbeck in the 35th minute was enough to seal the win, despite a couple of scares in the second period.
Hodgson handed a full England debut to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as bringing Chelsea’s Champions League winners John Terry, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole into the starting line-up after their extended break.
Scott Parker started alongside Steven Gerrard again, despite his recent achilles problems, though the Tottenham midfielder seemed to come through the game unscathed.
The match started at a slow tempo, with the visitors enjoying most of the possession. England were playing on the counter attack and nearly broke the deadlock when James Milner crossed for Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the Arsenal youngster mis-hit his effort well wide of the target.
The Belgians had the ball in the net in the 18th minute as Dries Mertens got in behind Joe Hart and slid home.
However, the PSV Eindhoven attacker had forged the chance by pushing Cahill into Hart, conceding a foul and forcing Cahill off with a double jaw fracture which has seen him become the latest senior player to be ruled out of Euro 2012.
The former Bolton man – whose position in Hodgson’s 23-man squad has now been taken by Liverpool right-back Martin Kelly – was replaced by Joleon Lescott.
It was Marc Wilmots’ team who came closest in the opening half an hour, with Benfica’s Axel Witsel hitting a sweet strike just millimetres over the bar from just outside the penalty area.
However, it was England who opened the scoring against the run of play as Gerrard won the ball in the middle of the park, before Ashley Young slid in his Manchester United teammate Welbeck, who calmly lofted the ball over the onrushing Simon Mignolet and into the net to send Wembley into raptures.
Possible Chelsea recruit Eden Hazard was not providing a great deal of evidence to suggest why he will supposedly cost the European champions £32 million, but he did trouble Hart with a powerful effort from range.
England almost doubled their lead before the break with Gerrard having two consecutive efforts blocked heroically by the Belgian defence.
The second half continued in the same vein, with Belgium having most of the ball and England relying on counter-attacking play.
There was something of a surprise early in the second period as Welbeck made way for Wayne Rooney, with Hodgson deciding to give Rooney some game time despite his suspension for the opening two matches of Euro 2012.
Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini, Mertens and Hazard all had decent efforts on goal as Belgium looked to pull level, but a determined England were as resolute as they had been in Oslo seven days previously.
As the minutes ticked on it remained a close contest, with right-back Guillaume Gillet striking the outside of the post for the visitors, while substitute Jermain Defoe also hitting the woodwork when played in by Theo Walcott.
Man of the match Gerrard was replaced late on by Jordan Henderson, as Hodgson’s men played out time to keep the new regime’s 100 per cent record intact. Next up, France .
England: Hart, Johnson, Terry (Jagielka 70), Cahill (Lescott 19), Cole, Parker, Gerrard (Henderson 83), Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Walcott 66), Young (Defoe 66), Welbeck (Rooney 53).
Belgium: Mignolet, Gillet, Simons, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Witsel, Fellaini, Dembele, Mertens (Lukaku 72), Hazard, Miralles (Chadli 59).
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