• By Yann Tear at Wembley Stadium

Welcome serenity reigns on England's return to the scene of those Wembley crimes



Could it have been any more different?

The last time England trod the Wembley turf, there was chaos all around, tension and anxiety oozing out of every pore of this vast Stadium.

Outside the gates, anarchy reigned as hordes of ticketless young men stormed the barricades to get into the ground – something which may yet result in heavy punishment handed down from Uefa to the FA for failing to keep control.

It is no exaggeration to say that it felt intimidating that night, even for those of us who have covered matches in the sometimes-lawless confines of Latin American fixtures.

Fair enough, it was not entirely as bad in some respects.

At one Copa Libertadores fixture I attended in Ecuador (their equivalent of the Champions League) fans were so packed in they relieved themselves into plastic bottles which they then hurled down the terraces rather than go through the nightmare of a difficult crush to reach desperately unclean toilets.

Others set fire to bits of cardboard which they then launched into the air – indifferent to where they might land.

The England v Italy clash on July 11 did not have that, but it had a grimly desperate edge and a fear factor. Covid and drunken louts running wild in a toxic, glutinous no-go zone. Taking no prisoners. Creating a sense of danger.

If you were looking for the ideal antidote to events just 56 days ago at the conclusion of Euro 2020, this was it. Sweet Caroline again rang out and was lustily reprised but this was from a mixed crowd which included many more school children and families on a relaxed Sunday afternoon outing.

The warm late-summer weather helped even more to create a sense of something far less foreboding. Far less significant in the bigger scheme of things.

And that was only natural, of course. Andorra in a World Cup qualifier sandwiched between visits to Hungary and Poland is not quite the same as a first major final since 1966.

There was still patriotic fervour and the return of that infernal band in the east stand. But it was not the feral mood of that hugely disappointing night for the Three Lions. No broken glass to wade though up Wembley Way. No overturned barriers. No stormed turnstiles.

There were 67,171 present and there is a fair chance that they will have all been bona fida ticket holders rather than gate-crashers.

Instead of the mayhem, we had the gentle joys of fans cheering the flight of paper airplanes as they glided off the top tiers and down onto the pitch.

An England B team – none of the 11 who started the 4-0 win in Budapest in midweek were selected - was still too strong for the Pyreneans, as you would expect. But it was a rather laboured win.

Jesse Lingard opened the scoring after 18 minutes and we expected an avalanche, at least in keeping with the minimum nap-hand of the previous fixtures between the two nations in the UK. But the goals were a long time coming.

So tame and slow were England in attack that Gareth Southgate felt obliged to throw on Harry Kane in place of debutant Patrick Bamford on the hour, along with Jack Grealish and Mason Mount.

Kane blasted in from the spot to make it 2-0 after 72 minutes, Lingard added another six minutes later, and Bukayo Saka added gloss heading in a fourth against a tiring team five minutes from time.

A great moment for the young Arsenal player with demons of his own he wanted to banish from that fateful final, when his missed penalty settled the outcome. A first goal for England feels good, no matter who the opposition might be.

In truth, it all felt a bit subdued and strictly low-key. It will not live long in the memory as a spectacle. But that was fine. It worked perfectly as therapy for anyone here who may have been caught up in the craziness of two months ago and for England, another stepping stone on the way to Qatar.