Wayne Rooney scores penalty as England edge out Norway
New captain Wayne Rooney rescued Roy Hodgson from embarrassment as a record-low crowd watched England sneak past Norway in a dull and uninspiring friendly at Wembley.
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Just 40,181 turned up to the national stadium to watch England register a 1-0 win thanks to Rooney's 69th minute penalty. It was the lowest England crowd at the new Wembley by more than eight thousand. Six of the last seven Johnstone's Paint Trophy finals have been better attended.
Those that stayed away sent a clear message to Hodgson's team -- that they would have to win their support back with an impressive display following the disappointment of the World Cup. But the majority of the fans who came to North-West London on Wednesday night will feel they did not get value for money.
England's first shot on target was the one that Rooney rifled past Orjan Haskjold Nyland from 12 yards -- and their build-up play was terribly slow at times, particularly in the first half.
It was only when Rooney's penalty hit the back of the net did England start to play anywhere near their best.
Danny Welbeck gave the Arsenal fans in the crowd a glimpse of his potential with a few mazy runs while Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge also showed flashes of positivity.
But Hodgson knows he will need too see an improvement from his men to win in Switzerland on Monday and to get the crowds flocking back to Wembley again.
Hodgson may have to shuffle his pack for his first Euro 2016 qualifier next week too as Gary Cahill came off late on with an ankle problem.
The brass band behind the away goal and the man on the public address system raised spirits before Rooney led the team out for the first time as full-time skipper, but it did not take long for any enthusiasm to drain from the home supporters.
Per Ciljan Skjelbred brought Jack Wilshere down after he played a clever one-two with Jordan Henderson in the fourth minute. The supporters were hush with anticipation as Leighton Baines stepped up to strike the ball, but curling effort flew five yards over. The disappointing effort set the tone for what ended up being a dour first half.
Norway broke up England's tentative attacks by any means. Skjelbred knocked Wilshere off the ball as he approached the box and the Norway captain stopped Leighton Baines in his tracks with a flying elbow.
Sturridge and Sterling were the only lights to brighten up the first period. Sterling backheeled the ball into Sturridge's path, but the striker's shot was blocked inside the box. Sturridge then cushioned a 40-yard diagonal pass from Sterling, but Orjan Haskjold Nyland pressured the striker into lobbing over the bar.
Unlike England, Norway managed to register a shot on target, although it was a tame one from Tarik Elyounoussi, who volleyed straight at Joe Hart
England thought they should have had a penalty towards the end of the first half when Havard Nordtveit put in a late tackle on Wilshere, but the referee waved play on.
Then, in the final minute of the half, Hart, carelessly spilled Skjelbred's cross, almost dropping the ball into his own net.
A few dissenting voices were heard at the half-time whistle. If the fans inside the stadium were hoping for an instant improvement after the restart then they were to be disappointed. The Three Lions were just as slow in their build-up play and they were very flat at the back.
Hart saved a low drive from Mats Daehli and the England goalkeeper managed to deny Joshua King with an acrobatic dive. Some sloppy defending from Cahill allowed King to race into the box, but he could not convert.
England were thrown a lifeline in the 67th minute when Omar Elabdellaoui slid in late on Sterling and the referee pointed to the spot. Rooney stepped up and launched the ball past Nyland with his right foot. The goal released the pressure and England finally started to play with attacking intent.
Welbeck, who came on for Rooney, drew a good save from Norway's goalkeeper. Fabian Delph and Calum Chambers came on for their debuts and Cahill went off to receive ice to his foot.
The game petered out and those that had remained in the stadium for the final whistle greeted the end with barely audible cheers.