SHEFFIELD’S Kyle Walker turned in a Man of the Match performance last night at Wembley as England completed an unbeaten 2011 in satisfactory style by ending their 43-year wait for a victory over Sweden.
The former Sheffield United full back, who now plays for Tottenham Hotspur, looked accomplished at right back in a back four which included another Sheffield-born defender, Bolton Wanderers’ Gary Cahill.
A deflected first-half Gareth Barry header proved enough to secure the win, in addition to becoming England’s landmark 2,000th goal.
It was the first time the Three Lions have gone through an entire year without losing since 1996, or 1994 if you include the penalty shoot-out defeat to Germany at Euro 96.
However, Fabio Capello will be wary about reading too much into the triumph given how much club combat his players must slog their way through before arriving in Poland and Ukraine.
Only 48,876 - the first sub-50,000 crowd at Wembley since 1998 - were there to see starring performances from Stewart Downing, Phil Jones, and 21-year-old Walker.
Of all the players who could have been credited with England’s winner, Celtic defender Daniel Majstorovic was an unlikely candidate.
Yet, as ‘own goals’ would be fourth on the all-time list, maybe it was actually quite fitting the Sweden defender turned Stewart Downing’s curling cross into his own net after leaping with Gareth Barry.
England boss Capello said: “We created a lot of chances to score. Some of the players played really well - Phil Jones, Jack Rodwell - and I think it was a really testing game, because after 43 years we finally beat Sweden. I’m happy but I think we need to improve from it .”