Upson is England's hero

Matthew Upson, who grew up in Diss, was England's hero last night in a 2-1 win over arch rivals Germany.He scored the first goal and was voted man of the match.

Matthew Upson, who grew up in Diss, was England's hero last night in a 2-1 win over arch rivals Germany.

He scored the first goal and was voted man of the match.

As a moment of history it might not rival Paul Gascoigne's tears in Italy or Michael Owen's hat-trick in Munich.

Yet, make no mistake, England's 2-1 victory against Germany in Berlin last night was up there with the great footballing nights.

A night when Fabio Capello's England demonstrated a strength in depth which was little short of revelatory, plus a commitment which made a nonsense of all those pre-match criticisms.

A night when the famous names were missing, but what their understudies lacked in reputation they made up for in the hard currency essential to get the job done at the top level.

Most Read

They harried the white shirts of Germany from the first whistle. They wore their own red with pride and a confidence which was a delight to witness.

They demonstrated the hunger of men who knew this was a big and unexpected opportunity to really state a case for South Africa 2010.

Doesn't that say so much about life with England under Capello?

Capello is a resilient character. He is a manager capable of playing the hand he has been dealt and making the most of it.

Which is why there was no outburst when he discovered eight members of what probably would have been his first team were missing through injury. No sulking either.

Instead there was a determination to manufacture something positive from a match which so many Premier League managers deemed meaningless.

“I hope to learn a lot,” Capello had said. “There are some very interesting players here.'

So there were.

Such as Michael Carrick, who showed just why he has been such a consistent performer at the heart of Manchester United's title and Champions League successes. A player who rarely wastes a pass, one who holds his position with assurance and responsibility.

The blend with Gareth Barry in midfield was as smooth and creative as anything we have seen from Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Yet there was so much more to catch the eye of Capello.

From a solid performance in defence from Norfolk's own Matthew Upson to the way Shaun Wright-Phillips provided spark and Stewart Downing the vigour he had previously lacked, to the pace up front of Gabriel Agbonlahor.

There is no substitute for the sort of pace the Aston Villa striker can bring to the party and with so much gas under the Three Lions bonnet these days it is difficult to see how Owen wrests his place back in this England side.

The same goes for David Beckham. That perhaps was another significant sub-plot to a match which had been so maligned.

England's first goal after 23 minutes was anything but pretty. Yet no-one could argue, when German goalkeeper Rene Adler made a hash of a Downing corner and Matthew Upson bundled the ball over the line from close range, that it was not deserved.

Germany's goal came just after the hour when Patrick Helmes accepted a gift from goalkeeper Scott Carson.

It was the one black mark of the night for Capello, who has a first choice goalkeeper in David James who will be closing on 40 when the World Cup comes around, and as yet no acceptable alternative.

It would be wrong, however, to dwell on yet another mistake by the reserve England goalkeeper on such a night, even if his second-half mix-up with captain John Terry only highlighted the cruelty of sport.

For Terry there was the redemption of a late headed winner.

For Capello there was a fifth victory in a row and the realisation that England have plenty in reserve.

And one more thing. No international friendly is meaningless.

Germany's only first-half threat came through the excellent set piece delivery of Bastian Schweinsteiger, with Heiko Westermann sending a powerful header just over.

It never could be another 1966, 1990, 1996 or 2001 but the noise of German fans whistling their own team off the field at the interval in its own way provided a memory to cherish.

The major disappointment was England only had one goal to shout about by the break.

Aside from a good effort from Agbonlahor, Wright-Phillips came close on a couple of occasions and Downing forced an excellent save out of Rene Adler.

After the Jens Lehmann era, it seemed somehow fitting Germany should concede to a kamikaze goalkeeping blunder.

Adler came to punch Downing's corner with purpose after an Upson effort had been deflected wide. He missed it completely.

Agbonlahor probably should have bundled home. Instead, the ball bounced down off the striker and Upson launched himself at it, prodding his first England goal into an empty net.

In four successive appearances, Upson looks accomplished and more than just a mere stand-in. The same is true of Downing. And after nutmegging Schweinsteiger he drilled a low shot narrowly wide.

Then Wright-Phillips nearly scored in memorable fashion after a mazy run before substitute Darren Bent beat the German offside trap, skipped round replacement keeper Tim Wiese and looked to tap into an empty net.

Had he done so, the game would have been over. Instead, with glory beckoning he half tripped over his own feet, half lost his balance. The result was a glaring miss. The consequences were huge as England's age old capacity to shoot themselves in the foot reared its ugly head again.

As he could see the whole picture, in particular Helmes bearing down at some speed, Scott Carson, on his first England appearance since his nightmare against Croatia 12 months ago, should have taken charge of the situation. Sensing hesitation, Terry should simply have whacked it onto the running track behind the visitors' goal.

Between them they did neither, allowing Helmes to stick out a leg as Terry tried to shepherd the ball to Carson, nudge it through the helpless keeper's legs and gleefully skip past. Even Helmes' granny would not have missed what remained.

That England recovered their composure so quickly is another glowing testament to Capello's managerial abilities.

When Wright-Phillips saw his thunderbolt shot crash to safety off a post 11 minutes from time, it seemed the win England deserved would elude them. Terry had other ideas.