England failed to build on the optimism generated by their thrilling victory in Germany as they were beaten in a friendly by the Netherlands, who have not even qualified for Euro 2016.
On a night when Wembley paid its respects to the late Dutch legend Johan Cruyff with applause in the 14th minute, a much-changed England side slipped to a rare defeat at the national stadium.
Man-of-the-match Jamie Vardy rounded off a slick passing move to steer in Kyle Walker’s cross four minutes before the interval – but Roy Hodgson’s side could not protect their lead.
England’s defence lived on the edge too often and were eventually punished when a sloppy passage of play led to Danny Rose handling, and Vincent Janssen scored from the spot after 50 minutes.
The big striker was then too strong for substitute Phil Jagielka, although England complained bitterly he had been fouled, before crossing for Luciano Narsingh to score the winner 13 minutes from time.
Vardy shows England class
Vardy’s transition from the heights he has scaled with Leicester City this season to England has been seamless – and he has stepped up a level in the two friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands.
The 29-year-old has been portrayed as both an ideal starter and the perfect impact substitute as Hodgson makes plans for Euro 2016.
Vardy has proved his capabilities for both, with an explosive 20-minute cameo in Berlin that included a brilliantly instinctive finish as part of England’s comeback.
And here, he was England’s outstanding performer by some distance, showing the pace and energy that has panicked Premier League defences and also skill to round off that passing move with a clinical finish before testing Dutch keeper Jeroen Zoet with a powerful rising drive.
The debate about how best to use Vardy may go on but one thing is beyond dispute – he is going to Euro 2016 and has the ability to threaten every defence in France.
A mixed bag of Stones
In an ideal world, Everton’s John Stones would have come in at Wembley to produce the sort of elegant display that became his trademark in the early seasons of his career, thus cementing his place alongside Chris Smalling for England’s first Euro 2016 game against Russia in Marseille.
Instead, Wembley witnessed a 21-year-old whose confidence has been hit by a recent dip in form at club level and will need a little renovating before the serious action gets under way.
Stones twice brought murmurs of concern from England’s fans inside Wembley with his tendency to perhaps over-play out of defence, but his determination to be constructive also started the passing move that led to Vardy’s goal.
The young defender is a work in progress and there will be slips – quite literally when he stumbled at the start of a chain of events that led to England keeper Fraser Forster having to save well from Janssen before Rose handled to leave the striker to score from the spot.
Stones is well worth persevering with – but Hodgson must hope some of that confidence and composure returns quickly.
So what shape are England in?
Hodgson warned they must not get carried away after victory in Germany – and, in case anyone ignored the warning, along comes a defeat against a Dutch team that will not even be in France this summer.
In some respects this defeat, albeit with a much-changed side, simply reinforced some of the lessons that came out of the win in Germany that was the catalyst for such a surge of optimism.
England have some very exciting options up front in the shape of Vardy and Harry Kane, while Daniel Sturridge also got a decent 57 minutes under his belt.
Questions remain, however, about a frail-looking defence with both full-back spots still up for grabs and no central-defensive pairing jumping out as Hodgson’s first choice at this stage.
England certainly carry a threat but fears persist about their ability to resist attacks of the highest calibre.
Player ratings – Vardy star man
Fraser Forster: Solid night for the Southampton keeper despite a couple of fumbles. Saved well from Georginio Wijnaldum and Vincent Janssen. Clear deputy to Joe Hart. 7.
Kyle Walker: Solid and quick in defence and a threat in attack with a perfect pass for Vardy to score England’s goal. 7.
Chris Smalling: Part of an uncertain central-defensive partnership that once again hinted at England’s frailty against attacks possessing real quality. 6.
John Stones: Not a great night for Everton’s 21-year-old. Yes, his determination to play started the move for England’s goal but too often caused anxiety with his tendency to overdo things and second-half slip started chain of events that led to the Dutch equaliser. 5.
Danny Rose: Not an easy night for England’s defence but Rose kept going and may consider himself unlucky to be punished for the handball that led to a penalty. 6.
James Milner: Anonymous as England’s captain. Milner is a solid presence but not big on inspirational moments. 5.
Danny Drinkwater: Solid debut from the Leicester City midfielder. Did himself no harm and can be happy with his debut but did he make a compelling case for inclusion in Euro 2016? Not sure. 6.
Ross Barkley: Busy first half and a trademark second-half surge that set up a chance for Adam Lallana. 6.
Adam Lallana: Decent night for the Liverpool midfielder. Clever pass played its part in England’s goal and was warmly applauded when substituted. 7.
Daniel Sturridge: Once he’d stopped fiddling with his bootlaces he settled down and produced one or two moments that hint at the threat he could yet pose for England. 6.
Jamie Vardy: England’s star man. Busy, scored one and could have had another. 8.
Walcott (for Sturridge, 57 minutes): Odd flash of pace and one rising shot over the bar but otherwise quiet. 6.
Clyne (for Rose, 57 minutes): Not much of an opportunity and consequently not much impact. 5.
Kane (for Lallana, 70 minutes): Just a couple of half-chances but no rescue act from the man who is now England’s first-choice striker. 5.
Jagielka (for Smalling, 70 minutes): Claimed he was fouled by Janssen in the lead-up to the winner but should have been stronger in that situation. 5.
Alli (for Milner, 82 minutes): No rating.
Dier (for Drinkwater, 84 minutes): No rating.
The stats you need to know
- Vardy scored England’s 100th goal under Hodgson.
- England conceded a goal from the penalty spot for the first time since March 2008 (Ribery, v France).
- Janssen’s goal was the first England had conceded in 443 minutes at Wembley.
- England conceded twice at Wembley for the first time since November 2013 (v Chile).
- The Three Lions have not won any of their past seven meetings with the Netherlands (D4 L3).
The Three Lions wait until 21 May to host Turkey, while Netherlands meet Republic of Ireland six days later.