England manager Roy Hodgson mounted an impassioned defence of his team after they laboured to a 1-0 victory over Norway in their first game since the World Cup.
Wayne Rooney marked his first match as captain with a decisive 68th-minute penalty, but it was one of only two shots on target that England mustered during a low-key friendly at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.
Only 40,181 fans — less than half Wembley’s capacity — turned up to watch England produce an uninspired display four days before their first Euro 2016 qualifier away to Switzerland, but Hodgson refused to succumb to the mood of apathy.
“Two shots on target? Don’t give me that one,” he snapped at a journalist during a tetchy post-game media conference.
“What about all the shots that people (Norway’s defenders) threw themselves in the way of? What about the little ball when (Daniel) Sturridge is played in, lobs the goalkeeper, lands on the crossbar?
“Don’t hit me with statistics. When we had that much possession, and you want to talk to me about two shots on target?”
Danny Welbeck, a replacement for Rooney, was the only other England player to test Norway goalkeeper Orjan Haskjold Nyland with a shot on goal.
While the new Arsenal striker caught the eye following his introduction, Hodgson admitted that Rooney had not had one of his best days.
“It was a big night for Wayne,” said Hodgson, who also handed debuts to Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph and Arsenal’s Calum Chambers.
“There was a lot of responsibility weighing on his shoulders, not least with the penalty, which he had to take and knew he had to score to secure the win.
“Wayne will tell you he can play better than that and have better games. But you’re not always going to give the best performance and you don’t become a bad player if you don’t put in the performance you wanted.”
– Rooney hails Sterling –
Rooney, whose 41st international goal took him above Michael Owen in his country’s all-time scorers’ list, conceded that England’s start to the match had been “really sloppy”.
But he took heart from the enterprising display produced by Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling, who won the decisive penalty and whose pace and penetrative passing illuminated England’s play.
“Raheem Sterling is a threat, he gets at players,” the Manchester United striker told ITV.
“It doesn’t always come off, but he’s an exciting player to watch. We all could have done better, but it’s a night where it was important to win.”
Norway coach Per-Mathias Hogmo saw Cardiff City midfielder Mats Moeller Daehli stretchered off in the second half after hurting his knee, but he played down the extent of the 19-year-old’s injury.
He was also wary about drawing too many conclusions from the game, ahead of Norway’s opening Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Italy on Monday.
“We shouldn’t place too much importance on these friendly matches, but on the matches to come,” he said. – Agence France-Presse