International Friendly: Hodgson in no mood to entertain statistics

Frank Dalleres
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England captain Wayne Rooney stroked home a second-half penalty as the Manchester United forward began his reign as national team skipper with a goal and victory against Norway at Wembley


DEFIANT manager Roy Hodgson vowed to win back the trust of jaded England fans with swashbuckling football and goals galore after his side relied on a penalty from new captain Wayne Rooney to beat Norway in front of a record low crowd.

Striker Rooney marked his first game since succeeding Steven Gerrard as skipper by emphatically converting a second-half spot-kick for his 41st international goal, following a foul on man-of-the-match Raheem Sterling.

Only 40,181 were here to witness it - England's lowest crowd at the new Wembley since it opened in 2007 – but a tetchy Hodgson played down a meager tally of two shots on goal and insisted his new-look team would strike more prolific form.

“Don't get me with statistics,” he said. “Use them if you like, but when we have that much possession, that much ball in and around their box, players throwing themselves in the way to stop shots going in, you want to talk about two shots on target?”

Hodgson conceded England were finding scoring difficult, but countered: “We’re also playing against teams who aren’t coming out at us a lot. I think this team will score goals. I think [Daniel] Sturridge has got goals, Rooney’s got goals, [Danny] Welbeck’s got goals, Sterling’s got goals. We’ll score goals.

“If the team can work as hard as that, show desire and appetite, aggres sion in defending, the exciting moves that I thought were on the field for all to see, I think the crowd -- they’re not foolish, they know what they see -- I’d like to think they’ll be coming back to see more of Sterling, Sturridge, [Jack] Wilshere and all these guys.

“I believe these players have got potential to lead us forward and excite football crowds.”

This was meant to be the dawn of a new era, as Rooney’s England began life without the last of the so-called golden generation, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, and prepared for Monday’s first Euro 2016 qualifier in Switzerland. But, only 10 weeks after the death throes of the team's worst World Cup campaign for more than half a century, this felt more like a wake.

Yet amid the torpor were encouraging signs, most af all the intuitive, scampering, whirlwind combination play of club team-mates Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge.

England’s two best early moments stemmed from the Liverpool pair. First, Sturridge beat two men, fed Sterling and ran onto his backheeled return ball only to have a shot blocked.

Moments later, Sterling found his Anfield colleague with a lofted 20-yard pass which bounced fractionally too high for Sturridge to keep his lob under the bar.

Norway might have taken the lead just after the break, when Blackburn forward Joshua King beat Everton youngster John Stones, winning his second cap, to a corner, but goalkeeper Joe Hart arched backwards sharply to tip round the post, and England would soon take the lead.

Inevitably Sterling was involved, the diminutive winger luring Omar Elabdellaoui into a trip. Rooney, alarmingly anonymous otherwise, rasped his penalty high and left.

That sparked substitutions galore, as Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph and teenage defender Calum Chambers made debuts, and his new Arsenal colleague Danny Welbeck enjoyed a lively cameo in attack.

The new Arsenal frontman came close to making an immediate impact, only for Norway keeper Orjan Nyland to repel his ferocious low effort from the edge of the penalty area.