AFTER almost 10 bewitching months, Jamie Vardy’s amazing season shows no sign of abating.
An astonishing 2015-16 campaign has seen the Sheffielder secure a Premier League winner’s medal with Leicester City and be afforded a plethora of individual accolades.
He set a new record after scoring in 11 consecutive top-flight matches and was named as the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.
Add international recognition, a strike for England away to World Cup holders Germany and now a match-winning strike on home soil for his country, the latter starting off a special week which sees the Yorkshireman get married on Wednesday.
His 27th goal of an incredible season may have owed much to the ineptitude of visiting goalkeeper Volkan Babacan and substitute Ismail Koybasi, but his predatory nous could not be doubted.
Vardy’s close-range strike seven minutes from time helped England claim a flattering victory against a Turkey side whose wait for a first win over the Three Lions has now extended to 11 games.
It also spared the blushes of fellow poster boy Harry Kane, who missed a 71st-minute penalty earned by – yes, you have guessed it – Vardy.
While the dream continues apace for the 29-year-old, Roy Hodgson’s side produced more questions than answers in Manchester.
Without so much as a goal against England prior to this latest international meeting, Turkey banished that sorry statistic to history thanks to Hakan Calhanoglu’s 13th-minute leveller to cancel out Kane’s early opener – which should not have stood with replays showing that the Tottenham Hotspur player was a yard offside .
The visitors’ performance, which contained more technical merit and cohesion than their opponents, certainly merited a draw at least. But fortune shone on England and especially Vardy.
England could not be faulted for endeavour, but their deficiencies were also exposed and were clear to see – and if Welsh, Russian and Slovakian observers were in attendance at the Etihad, they will have left with plenty to be encouraged by ahead of their Euro 2016 group meetings.
England looked flaky in defence and unconvincing in a midfield that failed to protect the back four. Only a world-class save from Joe Hart denied the Turks a draw in stoppage-time when he somehow kept out Olcay Sahan’s effort.
Inspection of the line-up revealed a definite White Rose tinge on the other side of the Roses divide, with Kyle Walker, John Stones, Danny Rose, Gary Cahill and Vardy all starting.
The perfect start was afforded England in front of a four-fifths full Etihad by way of a third-minute opener although replays showed that Kane was a yard offside after being slipped in by Tottenham team-mate Dele Alli, but what was beyond dispute was the quality of his cool, unerring finish low to the left of Volkan Babacan.
To their credit, Turkey, so benevolent on a number of previous visits to these shores, showed evidence as to just why they were 13 matches unbeaten heading into this game, for much of the remainder of the first half.
England, despite manufacturing some dangerous moments, lacked precision and quality at times, with their decision-making also suspect on occasions.
Given their work-in-progress status and the fact that just two outfield players who lined up at the start were aged over 25, a lack of international conditioning is self-evident across the board, and that is something that just has to be accepted and is part of the ticket.
England’s concession was sloppy and added weight to those who believe a lack of hardened defensive nous will ultimate prove the Three Lions’ undoing across the Channel.
The hosts were undressed down their left, with Danny Rose caught out by Volkan Sen’s run before a second ill-advised decision arrived from Hart, who had earlier denied Cenk Tosun at his near post.
On home turf, Hart raced out of goal, but was beaten to the ball by Sen, whose pull-back found its way to Calhanoglu and with the home defence stretched, the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder converted from eight yards out.
Jack Wilshere and Eric Dier went close for the hosts, but any poise and rhythm was mainly displayed by the visitors.
On the restart, a forceful attack which ended with Alli seeing his deflected shot held by Babacan hinted at more sustained pressure from the hosts, but it was Turkey who imposed themselves once more.
Twice Tosun went close, first with a header and then with a low strike after a sweet turn unhinged the England backline.
A header from Hakan Balta soon flashed across goal with England looking suspect from set-pieces.
A panicky Rose then cleared after Cenk Topan played the ball back into the danger area as the visitors pressed.
England were afforded respite 19 minutes from time when a clumsy shove by Mehmet Topal on Vardy, who bore down on goal, yielded a penalty but Kane’s effort clipped the outside of Babacan’s right-hand post.
Thankfully, Vardy baled out the striker, netting a rebound after Babacan, with Koybasi also in attendance, failed to hold onto captain Cahill’s header following Kane’s corner.
England: Hart; Walker, Stones, Cahill, Rose; Dier; Sterling (Drinkwater 73), Wilshere (Henderson 66), Alli; Kane, Vardy. Unused substitutes: Bertrand, Forster, Barkley, Townsend, Delph, Heaton.
Turkey: Babacan, Gönül, Topal, Balta, Erkin (Koybasi 70); Inan, Tufan (Erdinc 87), Calhanoglu (Sahan 78), Ozyakup (Tekdemir 70); Sen (Oztenkin 84), Tosun. Unused substitutes: Ozbayrakli, Yilmaz Calik, Potuk, Tore, Kivrak, Malli, Tekin, Soyuncu, Mor.
Referee: Deniz Aytekin (Germany).