• England 2-3 Holland
In the end it was a night that will have done little for Stuart Pearce's job application for Euro 2012. For all the late drama, it was a subdued Wembley by the final whistle and even if there were mitigating circumstances, as there always are when key players are missing, the crowd could be forgiven if they are contemplating the summer with a sense of foreboding.
For a few brief moments the team that appear to have devised their plans for Poland and Ukraine on the theory of chaos had deceived us into thinking they could pin down the side rated third in Fifa's world rankings. A two-goal deficit had been wiped out courtesy of late goals from Gary Cahill and Ashley Young and, from virtually nowhere, it was promising to be a comeback that might undo some of the negativity that has been whistling through the England camp.
Yet every time Holland tired of being obliging opponents and moved up a gear it was alarming to see the imbalance of talent between the two sides. The moment, for example, when an impatient Arjen Robben ran two-thirds of the pitch to open the scoring, quickly followed by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar heading in the second. Then, finally, Robben curling in the left-foot shot that deflected off Cahill for the final flourish. For long spells this was a Dutch side that seemed only half-interested but in those devastating bursts when they gave it their full attention they found England to be a side lacking shape and knowhow.
For that, Pearce is entitled to point out this was always going to be a night of experimentation and, with a new-look side, that it was unreasonable to expect it to be a seamless performance. All the same, there are only two more friendlies now before the start of Euro 2012. No other team in this summer's tournament have endured such a wild and eccentric preparation and the Football Association surely has to accelerate the process of finding a permanent manager. A sense of order is needed, an end to the uncertainty. Once more, Pearce reminded us he wanted the job but Wembley hardly felt like a place where the fans were campaigning for his appointment. There was polite applause, an appreciation that this is a man who would walk through plate glass for this team, but little more. The whole England experience right now feels so flat.
On the plus side, Scott Parker played as though affronted by the suggestion that it was a travesty Steven Gerrard had been overlooked for the captaincy. In the first 20 minutes alone, he had won the ball three times with perfectly executed tackles that indicated he would be an ideal wearer of the armband. Daniel Welbeck was busy in attack, though often isolated.
Cahill was probably the pick of the England defenders and took his goal with the expertise of a specialist striker. Gerrard, however, lasted little more than half an hour before his injury problems had flared up again, this time with a tight hamstring. This was his first international appearance since November 2010 and it is far from ideal that he will go into this summer's tournament having played so little with some of the newer members of the team.
Gerrard left the pitch in the midst of England's best spell of the opening 45 minutes, passing the ball neatly and playing with the kind of purpose that Pearce had wanted when places for this summer's competition are at stake. Yet the team looked lost in those moments early in the second half when their opponents increased the tempo.
Robben's first goal was a wonderful demonstration of his ability to run with the ball and shoot with unerring accuracy. The winger was 25 yards inside his own half when Daniel Sturridge, Gerrard's replacement, lost the ball. Robben's body movement took out both Cahill and Smalling but he should never have been allowed to run so far without a single challenge.
His finish was low and precise and the defending was loose again two minutes later when Dirk Kuyt crossed from the right for the substitute Huntelaar, who headed in the second goal.
In the process Huntelaar clashed heads with Chris Smalling and both had to go off, the Manchester United player on a stretcher. Sturridge, who was also injured late on, then missed a great chance and, deflated, the first fans were already leaving by the time Cahill ran on to Leighton Baines's pass, turned inside and stroked a shot past Maarten Stekelenburg.
In truth, the goal was a mild shock but not so much as that moment when the substitute Phil Jones slid a pass into Young's path and he clipped in an equaliser that had barely seemed probable. Pearce did not celebrate and, shortly afterwards, Robben changed the complexion of the night once again.