Hart and Townsend provide the only plusses for beaten England

In these more enlightened times, a home defeat last night was never going to lead to the Wembley goalposts being torn down by a marauding army of elated visiting fans.

Germany's Per Mertesacker, centre, scores pass England's goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Germany's Per Mertesacker, centre, scores pass England's goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Neither, as had been the case 36 years earlier when England had last lost twice on home soil inside the space of five days, were we ever going to see thousands of those same invaders making off with clumps of turf as a souvenir of seeing the enemy humbled in their own back yard.

What the 85,934 crowd did have to suffer, however, was the ignominy of English football’s favourite anthem – Football’s Coming Home – being hi-jacked in celebration by the small band of Germany followers.

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Per Mertesacker’s first-half header was the cause of German joy, as Roy Hodgson’s England joined their Three Lions predecessors of 1977 in losing back-to-back games at the national stadium.

Back then, Wales and Scotland – the latter’s triumph sparking the infamous pitch invasion by the Tartan Army – inflicted the damage in what was always a keenly-fought Home Championships.

The two more recent losses came in friendlies. But, even so, with the World Cup a little over six months away, the ease with which Chile, on Friday, and now Germany were able to claim victory has to be worrying.

England could take a couple of positives from last night’s display.

Joe Hart, for one, was back to his best in goal. Andros Townsend also worried the Germans with his direct running and was unfortunate to see a second-half shot strike the foot of a post rather than find the net.

Those two plusses apart, however, it was a pretty grim night for the Three Lions, who now have to wait more than three months to put things right when next in action against Denmark.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of last night’s reverse was that Germany coach Joachim Low had clearly put more emphasis on the previous Friday’s friendly in Italy.

Out went, among others, captain Philipp Lam and first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Even without that influential duo, Germany’s starting XI featured no less than five players who had appeared in last May’s Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

It was not, however, until the 37th minute that the visitors finally gave another bumper Wembley crowd a glimpse of their true class.

First, Hart had to show tremendous agility and reflexes to keep out a bullet header from Mertesacker.

The danger, though, was far from over. The resulting corner, after being half-cleared, was returned into the danger-zone where Mertesacker leapt in front of Chris Smalling to power an unstoppable header beyond Hart.

Going behind was possibly hard on England.

Not because they had created a host of chances. Far from it, in fact, with the closest Roman Weidenfeller had come to action during his first 45 minutes of international football coming when watching Phil Jagielka head over from a tight angle after being picked out by Steven Gerrard’s corner.

No, any injustice felt on the part of the hosts was that, those two quickfire headers from Mertesacker apart, they had looked no worse than the Germans.

If anything, England had looked that little bit neater and tidier when in possession with Gerrard leading the way as the ball was retained in a manner that will be crucial in Brazil next year.

The problem came when the ball reached the final third, with the visitors given sufficient time to get back in numbers and snuff out any danger.

Only Townsend, with a couple of trademark strong runs, could claim to have to unsettled the Germans.

Even then, a rash pass usually undid the Tottenham man’s good work.

Low, with Saturday’s Bundersliga clash between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in mind, made a couple of substitutions during the interval as Jerome Boateng and Marcel Schmekzer were given a breather.

Despite these changes clearly weakening the Germans, they still started the second half stronger.

But for Hart, the visitors would have doubled their advantage as Marco Reus fired a shot that seemed destined for the net only for the under-pressure Manchester City goalkeeper to beat the ball away.

Mertesacker also headed over from a corner before Hart pulled off another stunning save to keep out Mario Gotze.

That let-off came a few minutes after Townsend had struck a post at the other end with a 25-yard left-foot shot that had followed an incisive run inside.

Sturridge wasted a gilt-edged opportunity after letting the ball run away from him when well placed but, even for these two near misses, Germany always looked the most likely to find the second goal of the night.

Sidney Sam should have done just that, only to lift his shot over the crossbar before the final whistle blew to the familiar sound of a disappointed home crowd booing their side.

England: Hart; Walker, Smalling, Jagielka, Cole (Gibbs 52); Townsend, Gerrard (Henderson 56), Cleverley (Wilshere 64), Lallana (Lambert 76); Sturridge, Rooney (Barkley 71). Unused substitutes: Johnson, Ruddy, Baines, Cahill, Milner, Lampard, Forster, Defoe, Rodriguez.

Germany: Weidenfeller; Westermann (Draxler 67), Mertesacker, Boateng (Hummels 46, Howedes 65), Schmelzer (Jansen 46); S Bender, L Bender; Gotze, Kroos, Kruse (Sam 56); Reus (Schurrle 82). Unused substitutes: Draxler, Adler, Muller.

Referee: S Lannoy (France).