Fabio Capello is happy to give youth its head and Ashley Young is better out wide than in the hole
Fabio Capello said he needed leaders on the pitch yet he did not make experience his sole criterion. Frank Lampard could find a place on the bench only, as was the case in Bulgaria last month, and of the outfield 10 only John Terry, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney could be described as old hands at this level. Capello again showed his willingness to field a promising young player out of position at right‑back – Phil Jones has even less experience in the role than Chris Smalling, who played in Sofia – and again showed something approaching disdain for the claims of Micah Richards. Smalling and Jones are centre‑halves by choice. You would never have guessed from the way Jones broke down the right on England's first attack, bringing the first save of the game with a cross‑cum‑shot. Jones does not appear to lack confidence but was caught out on occasion. Lampard was on for his experience by the end.
England warmed up as if they meant it. No surprise there, perhaps, given Capello's apparently endless fascination with what takes place in the minutes before the game, but there was no conspicuous slouching or half-heartedness. Capello had complained that in the last warm-up before the Wales game England had been shooting in for the sake of it. Here they were shooting in to score – in fact, when the substitutes got together in one of the penalty areas, Danny Welbeck, Frank Lampard and Leighton Baines all did score. Then Rooney, Ashley Young and Darren Bent joined in. It cannot have done much for Scott Carson's confidence, or Theo Walcott's, either. Rather noticeably, the Arsenal forward kept missing the target.
England kept up their concentration when the match kicked off, too. They forced three corners in the opening five minutes and Walcott brought a second save from Mladen Bozovic before Montenegro had properly ventured out of their own half. When they did, however, it was clear that Mirko Vucinic represented a threat. He took on and beat several England defenders with a run into the penalty area that brought the crowd to their feet. For all the early pressure England had not managed such a direct attack of their own, so it was as well they were able to quieten the home fans almost immediately with Young's first goal. Montenegro were caught undermanned at the back and after Rooney spread the ball wide to Walcott the cross left Young with little more to do than stay onside.
Young is much better when coming in from a wide position rather than attempting to play in the hole, where he tends to make the same runs and compete for the same space as Rooney. The Manchester United winger was just about England's liveliest attacker here, with the Rooney-Bent partnership not really taking flight, always assuming Rooney and Bent were supposed to form a partnership. The side Capello selected looked like a straightforward 4-4-2 but in practice Rooney spent a lot of time in his own half in search of the ball while Bent often found himself up front on his own, acting as a target man. It was effectively the 4-2-3-1 seen in Sofia and, though it is debatable whether Bent is as effective as Rooney, before his sending-off, at the sharp end of that formation, he too could hardly miss when Rooney and Young combined again to leave him a tap-in.
The supposedly hostile atmosphere never really materialised. England can take credit for that, scoring twice in the first half‑hour to dampen home spirits almost as effectively as the stormy weather, though the Montenegrin support was loyal, fervent and vocal. It was never an intimidating experience for England, apart from a few hairy minutes either side of the interval that was mostly of their own making and the period when they were down to 10 men. The sending-off spoiled what should have been a comfortable night for Capello and his players. England were not playing the strongest possible Montenegro XI and were helped to a 2-0 lead by defensive mistakes. Though qualifying top without losing a match is not to be sneezed at, England cannot relax as the world champions are up next in a friendly.