Olimpia Berlin Stadium: Germany vs England 1-2 (exhibition match)

A late John Terry header ensured England continued their resurgence under Fabio Capello with a 2-1 victory over Germany in Berlin to end 2008 on a high. England travelled to the German capital ravaged by injuries and surrounded by debate regarding the importance of Wednesday's friendly, but Capello's side produced a thoroughly convincing display to secure a fifth successive win.

The Three Lions - who recorded a famous 5-1 success on their last visit to Germany - took a scrappy lead in the 23rd minute as centre-back Matthew Upson poked home after Rene Adler had flapped at a Stewart Downing corner. After the interval, England continued to enjoy the better of proceedings but substitute goalkeeper Scott Carson endured a horrible mix-up with Terry to allow Germany striker Patrick Helmes to equalise on 63 minutes.

The game, both sides' final outing of the year, then continued in entertaining, end-to-end, fashion and England winger Shaun Wright-Phillips rattled a post from range. England, though, then ensured Germany suffered their first defeat in Berlin since 1973 as Terry met a Downing free-kick to head in with six minutes remaining. When the Three Lions analyse 2008, there will be a massive gap in the middle when they should have been at the European Championship. That absence was not Capello's fault of course. Yet if the by-product of two years' failure under Steve McClaren is a coach with vision, willpower and knowledge, maybe the pain was worthwhile.

Capello has always said his is an evolving process. And this England was markedly different to the one he turned out against Switzerland last February, both in performance and personnel. Only three of the players that started against a German side lacking Michael Ballack, Philipp Lahm and Torsten Frings featured against the Swiss, when England were hesitant, fearful and fortunate to win. However, it appeared they had spent the intervening nine months training together every day such was the cohesion they showed and adherence to a gameplan Capello has vowed there was no need to change despite suffering the loss of so many major players.

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, 1970, 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 debutant Gabriel Agbonlahor, Wright-Phillips came close on a couple of occasions and Downing forced an excellent save out of Adler. The shot-stopper was less convincing when England opened the scoring as he 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.

After the half-time break, 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, 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. 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 wanted would elude them. Terry had other ideas. The Chelsea defender met a chipped free-kick from Downing - who was excellent throughout - to secure a merited success.



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