Despite England displaying far more pace and intent than was present at the World Cup, it still took two classy Steven Gerrard finishes to seal victory over Hungary at Wembley.
Fabio Capello’s team had dominated possession but created little in the way of clear-cut chances when they fell behind against the team ranked 62nd in the world just past the hour.
Phil Jagielka was credited with an own goal when deflecting Vladimir Koman’s cross past Joe Hart, even though Michael Dawson clearly hacked the ball clear before it crossed the line.
However, this setback seemed to breathe fresh life into England and captain Gerrard’s brace within a four-minute spell ensured that the fans went home feeling relatively happy.
First he rifled past Gabor Kiraly from 25 yards on 69 minutes and then wormed his way through numerous challenges in the box after receiving the ball from Ashley Young and poked past Kiraly at his near post.
In the second period Capello took the chance to introduce some of his younger guns of the future, including Young, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere, who could play a more pivotal role as he begins his quest to qualify for Euro 2012.
This challenge opens up with games next month against Bulgaria and Switzerland, who will perhaps pose the stiffest test in Group G.
For Gerrard it was a chance gratefully accepted to show his goalscoring talents ahead of the upcoming Premier League season.
He is 40/1 to end the campaign as the top overall Premier League goalscorer, while he is 11/2 to finish as Liverpool’s top team scorer, which could be especially likely should Fernando Torres continue to be hampered by injury.
See the full Euro 2012 betting market to discover where World Cup winners Spain feature in the betting.