Wales 0 // England 2
CARDIFF // You could sense Fabio Capello waiting for the question. After all the criticism of his actions, attitude and results as England manager, he stood in the Millennium Stadium reflecting on a win as comfortable as a major tournament qualifier between home nations comes.
After a week which saw him criticised for his reinstatement of John Terry as the England captain and the lack of communication with Terry's predecessor, the injured Rio Ferdinand, it was a welcome result.
A two-goal victory away to Wales, his team tactically and technically dominant. The game stone dead from the moment Frank Lampard converted a seventh-minute penalty kick. England had returned to the summit of their 2012 European Championship qualifying group, a familiar position during Capello's qualifying campaigns.
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So, did Capello feel vindicated by his day's work?
"Why?" snapped the Italian. "I don't need to vindicate nothing. Against the press? Against someone? It is my job. When you win you are the best, when you lose you are bad. It's the normal job for a manager."
What was not, perhaps, so normal was the moment of petulance that will cost Capello the services of his most storied player for England's next qualifier, the June 4 home match with Switzerland.
Wayne Rooney's second-half kick at Joe Ledley seemed as pointless as it was negligent. The real kicker was that Rooney had forgotten the caution he had received in October's scoreless draw with Montenegro.
"I just told him why to get the yellow card? It was surprise," Capello said. "Rooney was surprised because he didn't remember that he was booked."
The pluses, though, far outweighed the minuses. Capello's team, arrayed in a 4-1-2-3 formation in which no player was asked to take on a role unnatural to him, achieved his aim of stopping Wales playing while moving the ball constructively.
The manager selected West Ham United's Scott Parker, Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, in his first competitive international, and Ashley Young of Aston Villa - who won England's penalty and set up Darren Bent's 14th-minute second - for particular praise.
"I think Ashley Young is the player that is improving most," Capello said. "This year he is a very, very good player. He played very well in Denmark (a 3-1 win), he played well this evening and he is playing very well for Aston Villa. Scott Parker played well because he won back a lot of ball and he was in every moment in good position.
"Jack Wilshere, it's incredible the performance of this player during this season. He is improving in a short period of time."
Wales had not defeated England for 27 years, and Gary Speed has now initiated his international career with a 3-0 loss to the Republic of Ireland and this uninspiring performance. His new charges remain bottom of the group with four defeats and a single goal scored.
"We are not going to qualify for the Euros. Even if we had won this game we probably wouldn't have qualified. But by the time it is August 2012 we want to be in a position to compete," Speed said. "We have a plan, and we are looking to build a team that goes into that qualifying group with a chance of making it to the World Cup. That is the aspiration."