England were led out by Steve Gerrard who, at 34 years of age, is desperate to hit the highs that have eluded his illustrious career. He came so close to achieving one of those goals this season when Liverpool looked set to win the Premier League, only to let things slip (oh man, I can’t believe I used that word in that sentence!) at the last hurdle. It was a fantastic season for Liverpool, reaching much higher heights than they have in more years than most Liverpudlians care to remember, but fell short of the final prize in the end.
This can only serve to spur the England captain on in Brazil, which will surely be his very last chance to play in a World Cup finals. He will be 38 when (if?!) the World Cup takes place in Qatar and the intense heat there will be more than the youngsters will be able to handle, never mind Gerrard on his zimmer-frame in 2018.
England lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation which is probably a very good indication of what Hodgson has in mind for Brazil. Wayne Rooney was joined by teammate Danny Welbeck as well as Southampton’s Adam Lallana and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge spearheaded the attacking formation.
Peru were the first to have a decent opportunity, when Montpellier’s Jean Deza struck outside the box, but even with a looping deflection off Everton centre-back, Phil Jagielka, Joe Hart watched it well and defused the danger. Encouragingly for the Three Lions, they immediately attacked back and Lallana’s penetrating run almost gave Sturridge the opening goal, but his whipped strike sailed just wide of the far post.
Just after the half hour mark England were ahead, when Liverpool duo Johnson and Sturridge linked up to create a stunning goal, almost out of nothing. Full-back Johnson’s pressure on the right wing gave England a deep throw-in, which he took quickly upon seeing his Merseyside teammate on the edge of the box. Sturridge was steered out of the penalty area to what Peru hoped was safety, but he stunned them with a blistering strike that flew into the top corner of the net, beyond the reach of Peruvian keeper Raul Fernandez, who plays in the MLS for FC Dallas.
England could not be considered dominating or completely in charge of the game but for the most part they looked comfortable enough and capable of cruising to victory and doubled their lead soon after the hour mark with a decent set piece. Baines floated a great corner into a dangerous area and Gary Cahill did well to get his head on it and put it past the keeper, who was obstructed and put off by his own man, Luis Advincula. Against the likes of Italy, it will be very important for England to capitalize on opportunities and set pieces such as this, so this was very promising for Hodgson.
To seal the game, the English defense once again came up trumps five minutes later. Baines sent another corner into the danger zone and Cahill’s pressure was enough to draw a mistake, the Peru keeper and Alexander Callens of Real Sociedad got in each other’s way, and Phil Jagielka slotted home the spilled ball.
Not the prettiest performance from the home side but one that should be taken as a very positive sign for them to go into their 2 games in Miami next week, where they can continue to grow as a unit in preparation for their tough opener on June 14th against Italy.