CAPTAIN marvel Steven Gerrard spared the blushes of both his under-fire coach and Fifa bosses last night as England came from behind to beat Hungary in their first outing since their dismal World Cup showing.
The stand-in captain scored two memorable goals in the space of just four minutes as the new era under Fabio Capello began with an eye-catching win.
But Gerrard’s salvo also helped defuse a potential timebomb for Fifa president Sepp Blatter as the row over goal-line technology reared its ugly head again.
Recalled Phil Jagielka’s attempted near-post clearance was clearly hacked off the line by defensive partner Michael Dawson, only for French referee Stephane Lannoy to give the goal in scenes contrasting to those in South Africa when the Uruguayan officials failed to notice Frank Lampard’s strike cross the line against Germany.
But amid a largely receptive Wembley crowd of 72,024, Gerrard took centre stage, rifling home a 25-yard equaliser into the top corner before a sublime individual effort wrapped up a morale-boosting win
Capello handed debuts to both Arsenal pair Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshire in the second half, while fellow substitute Bobby Zamora twice came close to scoring on his international bow.
The boss said afterwards: “I enjoyed it. I concentrated on the game and wanted to see everything. “I’m happy for the performance. We played the first 30 minutes well, the last 10 minutes of the first half not so well.
“The second half we saw more players, different players, young players and the performance was really good.
“I think we found some new young players for the future. The fans were really good, thank you. It surprised me. We hope we can win something for these fans.”
Capello moved away from much-maligned 4-4-2 system which failed England in the World Cup, recalling Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott to support Wayne Rooney in an exciting attacking trio. And it seemed to work a treat in the early stages as Rooney had the ball into the net on four minutes, only to be ruled out for offside, while Johnson blazed a good chance over ten minutes later.
Capello reverted back to the 4-4-2 at half-time, bringing on Zamora for Lampard, but it
was Hungary who took the lead on 63 minutes – Dawson’s slip letting in Zoltan Gera,
who subsequently set up the attack, which led to an unfortunate deflection off Jagielka.
Gerrard, however, showed his class with the equaliser six minutes later, pouncing onto a loose ball and crashing the ball home, before then collecting a pass from Ashley Young and finishing with a deft toe-poke after beating four opposition defenders.