3 September 2014 22:58
Wayne Rooney’s first goal as England captain ensured a winning start to life after the World Cup in an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Norway.
Roy Hodgson’s men endured a dismal time in Brazil, failing to win a single match as they crashed out in the group stage.
Influential figures Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have since announced their retirement from international football, with the latter’s armband now passed on to Manchester United striker Rooney.
Liverpool duo Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling showed glimpses of their club form during a dominant first half for the home side on Wednesday, but Norway held firm and even threatened to take the lead themselves after the break.
However, Rooney scored the only goal of the low-key friendly from the penalty spot in the 68th minute after Sterling had been felled by Omar Elabdellaoui.
The strike was Rooney’s 41st in an England shirt and saw him climb above Michael Owen on the country’s all-time goal list, with only Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Jimmy Greaves having scored more.
England’s performance will do little to boost confidence ahead of their opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland on Monday, while Norway will hope to cause an upset when they host Italy next Tuesday.
Hodgson, who was facing the same opponents as when he made his bow as England boss in May 2012, handed a first international start to Everton defender John Stones – the only newcomer in a starting XI that featured 10 members of the squad that went to the World Cup.
And it was the hosts who applied the early pressure at a half-empty Wembley, with Leighton Baines curling over from a fifth-minute free-kick before Sterling and Sturridge almost unlocked the visiting defence.
Sturridge slipped the ball to Sterling in the penalty area, but saw his eventual effort blocked after getting on the end of a backheeled return pass from his Anfield team-mate.
Phil Jones guided a header just wide of the right-hand post from a corner in the 17th minute as England continued to look the most likely to break the deadlock, before Mohamed Elyounoussi drew a rare save from Joe Hart with a speculative effort from 20 yards.
Sterling and Sturridge linked up well once again in a move that eventually saw the latter put the ball on the roof of the net, but an opening goal continued to prove elusive.
Jack Wilshere saw appeals for a penalty turned down before half-time, with replays suggesting he may have gone down too easily under the challenge of Havard Nordtveit.
Joshua King forced Hart into a one-handed diving save from a corner five minutes into the second half – the best chance of the match at either end to that point.
Norway’s early second-half momentum was halted somewhat when Cardiff City midfielder Mats Daehli required lengthy treatment after a coming together with Sterling, subsequently making way for Anders Konradsen.
England finally broke the deadlock 22 minutes from time when Rooney buried his spot-kick to the right of goalkeeper Orjan Nyland.
With the European Championship expanded to 24 teams for 2016, England’s involvement is unlikely to be in doubt, but their performance on Wednesday will do little to restore confidence following their World Cup nightmare.