Fabio Capello admitted that England had been "lucky" to beat Wales on Tuesday night and bemoaned his players' familiar inability to impose themselves at home. England's victory left them a point away from qualification for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine next summer.

This was a first victory at Wembley in a year and it meant that a draw against Montenegro in Podgorica next month will be enough to win Group G. There was an acceptance from Capello, however, that huge improvements will be required if this team are to challenge at the finals. England were lacklustre for long periods and, in Capello's eyes, "suffered" in the last 15 minutes as the Welsh looked for an equaliser.

Robert Earnshaw's horrible miss in front of a gaping goal left Capello relieved. He conceded that his team are gripped by a crisis of confidence at Wembley. "We were lucky, yes," said the Italian.

"The moment we made that big mistake in front of goal, it was luck. That was an incredible chance. We suffered a lot in those last 15 minutes: we didn't play good passes, never pressed the ball and even when we played on the counter attack we did so without speed, no good passes, no movement of the ball. We played well only for the last 20 minutes of the first half, but we need to for the whole game. We need to be the 'owners' of the pitch.

"I think, probably, here we lost the confidence. Some players who usually can dribble or attack the goal, they stop. We crossed four or five balls but there was only ever one player in there. I always want three in front of the goal, but we had no movement. We need to improve. We are playing better away than we are at Wembley, where our opponents play with more courage and aggression. But I'm happy with the result and, sometimes, it is the most important thing."

If the play-offs are avoided, England will be tested by the world's best in their next two fixtures at Wembley, in friendlies against Spain and Holland in November and February as the coaching staff seek more conviction from their players.

Wales, ranked 117th in the world, could easily have secured a point here; Earnshaw shot over the bar 14 minutes from time.

"I thought it was in," said Gary Speed, the Wales manager. "If you'd want one person in that position, it'd be Earnie. If it was this time next year we might be ruing that miss, but the way we played outweighs the disappointment. I'm so proud of my players, particularly for the second half. We knew we'd come under pressure against one of the top four teams in the world, but we wanted to stay in the game. We did that well and knew it would open up in the second half, and we'd get our passing game going.

"In the end things didn't go for us, but I'm so proud at how comfortable we looked in the second half. We took the game to them and were unfortunate not to get the result. We'll take a lot of positives from this for the future."

Capello said Wales's sense of freedom, born of a hopeless position in the group, had given them a licence to take risks.

"The other team played without any problem with the result," he said. "It's different if you can do that. You can play with a free mind, without pressure. The pressure of [having to get] a result.

"But all my players suffered this evening: they never played the ball fast, never tried to get forward. We need a point to be sure of qualifying now, and Montenegro need to beat us and Switzerland. But the game in Montenegro will be a big, difficult game. It will be a really 'warm' atmosphere there."