Euro 2012 qual. - England v Wales ratings: Ramsey's treat
England may have beaten Wales 1-0 at Wembley, but the visitors' captain Aaron Ramsey gave manager Gary Speed plenty of hope for the future.
GK: Joe Hart (6) – The Manchester City keeper is deserving of his place as England’s number one, that is for sure. But his case has been greatly helped by the errors of some of his rivals, the international retirements of others and the quality of strike forces he has faced over the past year. Made one low save from Earnshaw late on that was going wide anyway. Looked snazzy in his new kit, though.
RB: Chris Smalling (6) – Depending on your point of view, Smalling was either denied the chance to show his mettle in an England shirt against Gareth Bale or was fortunate to dodge the task. What he lacked in composure down the right flank he made up for in energy. Glen Johnson should not be unduly worried, at least not at this stage in the Manchester United defender’s career. One hairy moment.
CB: Gary Cahill (7) – Another quietly impressive showing from Cahill, who has now started three of England’s last four matches. Certainly looks at ease on the international stage now. Bolton may well live to regret not cashing in on him this summer, but Michael Dawson is probably relieved he didn’t move to Tottenham to usurp him for club as well as country.
CB: John Terry (7) – The England skipper had a reasonably quiet night for the most part, although he was caught off guard to allow Steve Morison the chance to shoot from an impossibly wide angle. Constantly barked instructions to Cahill and kept the England back line fairly high.
LB: Ashley Cole (6) – Part of Gary Speed’s reasoning for putting Bale out on the right may have been to limit Cole’s forays forward, but if so then it was only partly successful. The Chelsea man spent much of the first half surging up the left flank, allowing Ashley Young to drift inside. However, Cole had to count on his team-mates to track back and help halt Bale’s progress on more than one occasion.
CM: James Milner (6) – The Manchester City man clearly relishes playing a more central role than the wide brief more often given to him at Manchester City. He was given plenty of space to enjoy his stint in the middle of the Wembley pitch in the first half when, on the whole, his distribution was sensible and succinct. More dynamic after the break, or as dynamic as you can ever expect. Booked for a rash challenge of Bale after 20 minutes.
CM: Frank Lampard (6) – After being dropped to the bench against Bulgaria, reports of the death Lampard’s international turned out to be greatly exaggerated. It seemed inevitable that he would score when his name appeared on the team sheet, but the closest he came was a strike dug out from under his feet and fired over the bar shortly before he was substituted. A competent but uninspiring performance.
CM: Gareth Barry (6) – With every passing England match it becomes more difficult to recall why the nation was so obsessed with his fitness in the run-up to the World Cup last year. However, Barry did break out of his pedestrian stride on occasion, once to hare back and make a vital block on Aaron Ramsey inside the area and then again with a swerving run to set up Lampard for his chance.
RM: Stewart Downing (8) – Downing did not see much of the ball in the opening stages, but every time he did he looked more like a player for whom Liverpool paid £20 million. Gave Neil Taylor nothing but trouble, and when Joe Ledley dropped back to help out he was beaten to the byline with ease in the move that led to the goal. Put in a shift in defending from the front too. Subbed off on 79 minutes.
LM: Ashley Young (7) – The new Manchester United star truly staked his claim in the England reckoning against Wales in Cardiff, but this was his first international fixture for a while which was not an improvement on the last. Still, he turned Chris Gunter inside out a few times and lost his marker well to convert Downing’s cross with a smart finish.
FW: Wayne Rooney (7) – Rooney began the evening with much of the same joie de vivre that he showed in the win in Bulgaria. With a far less dynamic midfield behind him and Young to his left rather than behind him, however, he was often far more isolated than he should be at home. Dropped deep to try and instigate moves and chased Ramsey all the way to England’s left-back position in order to halt the Wales captain’s run. Subbed off with a minute remaining
Scott Parker (on 73’) (6) – Managed not to get booked and therefore suspended for the trip to Montenegro next month.
Andy Carroll (89’) - N/A
Subs not used: Stockdale, Jagielka, Lescott, Defoe.
GK: Wayne Hennessey (6) – It would be unfair to criticise the Wolves keeper for Young beating him at his near post in the manner that he did. Hennessey was often commanding in his area, and showed good awareness to charge off his line to meet Downing’s early ball forward for Rooney and hack it clear, although he did spill one cross which led to Cahill shooting off target.
RB: Chris Gunter (5) – The full-back struggled to contain either of the two Ashleys when they ran at him. Had one run forward which saw space open up in front of him, but he fired well wide from range.
CB: Ashley Williams (5) – The Swansea defender never seems to be quite as imposing as his big frame suggests. Had one header from a set piece go wide early on, but let Young sneak in behind him for the goal.
CB: Darcy Blake (6) – The Cardiff centre-back was the one doing most of the defending during England’s early period of dominance. He looked sharp as he anticipated several balls into the box and cleared them. Tracked a Milner run well before blocking the midfielder off and made an important tackle on Rooney on the edge of the box.
LB: Neil Taylor (5) – Consistently stood off Downing and let him curl in several threatening crosses. Was rarely allowed to roam forward, but on one occasion saw a cross from a promising move deflected for a corner.
DCM: Jack Collison (5) – The West Ham midfielder has only played a handful of matches in 2011, and it showed as he was only able to sporadically screen his defence well enough. Subbed off 85’.
CM: Aaron Ramsey (8) – The Wales captain’s first match with the armband was the reverse fixture back in March, and at the time the Arsenal midfielder looked a little lost. Now fully recovered from his broken leg, however, Ramsey grew in stature as the game progressed. As the second half wore on, Ramsey worked tirelessly to drive his team on towards an equaliser, and his free-kick delivery would have led to one were it not for Robert Earnshaw’s shocking miss.
CM: Andrew Crofts (6) – Worked well with Ramsey, acting as a good foil for his skipper and exchanging some quick passes when Wales had a few spells of possession.
RM: Gareth Bale (6) – Operating on the right wing for the second time in a week, Bale exhibited some skilful touches in the first half which either resulted in him being crowded out or fouled. He was sometimes furthest man forward as Morison dropped back to help defend. Had a surging run through the middle in the second half which again ended in losing the ball before firing a couple of shots over the bar.
LM: Joe Ledley (5) – An important factor in the success of Bale’s move to the right wing was Ledley deputising sufficiently on the left. The Celtic midfielder was unable to do so, and he was comprehensively outfoxed by Downing for England’s goal.
FW: Steven Morison (6) – The Norwich centre-forward was always destined for a night of running down lost causes as Wales’ lone front man. His Marco van Basten-style shot from a tight angle was ambitious, but he had to take his chances as they came. Terry and Cahill shared man-marking duty with ease, although he served his team well by tracking back at key moments. Subbed off on 67 minutes.
Robert Earnshaw (on 67’) (4) – When Ramsey’s free-kick was knocked back across the six-yard box by Blake it seemed impossible to see how Earnshaw could miss from six yards out, but somehow he sent his shot over the bar. It could be argued that he had not long come off the bench and was not warmed up, but that will be of little comfort when that clip is still being played years from now.
Andy King (on 85’) (5) – The Leicester midfielder had little time to make any impression on the match.