Fabio Capello is no longer “Shrek”. Unfortunately, Robert Earnshaw was the donkey after blowing a glorious chance to deny England victory at Wembley.
Wales were exceeding expectations but still trailing to Ashley Young’s first-half goal when Earnshaw was presented with the type of chance a Sunday morning park player would expect to put away 15 minutes from time.
Six yards out, central position, keeper no longer at home. All the Cardiff City man had to do was tap it in. Inexplicably, he failed, sidefooting over the bar to the shattering disbelief of a Wales team who deserved more as England moved to within a point of reaching Euro 2012.
Capello may believe his players don’t think of him as an ogre anymore. But after the fizz of Bulgaria, the Italian cannot have been happy with this flat performance.
A draw is now required in Montenegro on October 7 to book a place in next summer’s finals, when it is to be hoped Capello finds the more energetic incarnation of his side, even though they did manage to end a four-match sequence without a win on home soil.
Young said: “We wanted to get the three points to boost our chances of getting top of the group and we’ve done that.
“The performance wasn’t great but you go out to win the game and that’s what we’ve done.
“We knew Wales were going to come out and play with a bit more flair (after the break), which they did, and put us under pressure. I’m not too sure what it was in the second half, we just couldn’t get going.”
Asked about the game to come in Montenegro, he added: “Everybody’s got to keep ourselves fit.
“We’ve got to prepare well for that and I’m sure we’ll go there and get three points if we put in a good performance.”
England boss Fabio Capello concurred the three points were the main thing.
“Sometimes the result is more important than the other things,” he said.
“The first half we played well. The second half for 25 minutes we played well.
“We suffered a lot the last 15 minutes, they got an incredible chance to score a goal. We created some problems on the counter-attack but not so much.”
Asked if England could challenge at Euro 2012 should they qualify, he said: “We need to improve. We are playing better away than at Wembley. We also need to recover some players who are out.”
Former Sheffield United and now Wales boss Gary Speed said he was proud of his players, saying: “We were unfortunate not to get the result but with the performance and the way the players played, I’m really really proud.”