England captain John Terry helped gift an experimental Germany team a comical equalizer and then scored the winner as an England second-string kept up their team's run of fine form with a 2-1 friendly victory in Berlin.
England's goalscorers John Terry and Matthew Upson celebrate the 2-1 win in Berlin
The logic of playing international friendlies during the rough-and-tumble of domestic league seasons is often questioned by those who see these extra burdens on players' stamina and fitness as meaningless, even dangerous, fixtures. But for the coaches of Germany and England on Wednesday night, this match was a chance to get a better idea of what future their teams may have.
The difference between the two coaches, however, was that, for the most part, Germany's Joachim Loew was blooding new players through design while England's Fabio Capello was forced to do the same by default.
Loew brought in Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones for his first start while uncapped defender Marvin Compper and midfielder Tobias Weis were rewarded for their roles in lifting Hoffenheim to the higher reaches of the Bundesliga. Wolfsburg defender Marcel Schaefer was promoted to the squad.
Loew partnered Jones with Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes in the central roles usually operated in by Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings. Ballack would have played had it not been that he was still recovering from foot surgery, while Frings had been left out to give younger players a chance.
England's hand was a little more forced. Capello came to Berlin without a complete outfield of first teamers. Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Theo Walcott were among the injured while there was no place for Michael Owen and David Beckham despite the depleted nature of the team.
With both sides full of young players and new faces, it was unsurprising that many wanted to impress their coaches and the game at the Olympic Stadium got off to a blistering start with England on the offensive.
Young, hungry England look to impress
The experimental offensive partnership of Gabriel Agonblahor and Jermaine Defoe, aided by the flying wingers Stewart Downing and Shaun Wright-Phillips, gave England pace and width in attack and Germany's newcomers were overwhelmed in the opening stages.
After a missed corner, defender Upson poked home
England's pressure paid off in the 24th minute when defender Matthew Upson capitalized on a blunder by Germany keeper Rene Adler to poke home the missed cross through a mass of bodies.
Hoffenheim defender Compper looked unhappy on his first cap on the left of defense and Germany continued to struggle to find any sort of fluid movement without the absent captain Ballack and the overlooked Frings. Jones and Rolfes in the centre of midfield were often second best in an area of the park patrolled simply and effectively by Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry.
The first half ended with jeers from home fans, and Loew reacted by replacing the quiet Miroslav Klose with Leverkusen's in-form striker Patrick Helmes and Borussia Moenchengladbach's Marko Marin came on for Jones, while the appearance of Lukas Podolski up front in the 57th minute put the woefully ineffective Mario Gomez out of his misery.
Tim Wiese took over from Adler in goal to earn his first cap, while Capello also rang the changes at half-time, bringing on Tottenham's Darren Bent for Defoe and keeper Scott Carson for David James.
Keeper calamity breathes life into Germany
England could have been two goals ahead in the 63rd minute when Bent had the chance of the match when he was put through a static German defense by a sublime Gareth Barry pass but as he rounded Wiese he lost his footing and screwed the ball wide of an empty goal.
Carson and Terry were dumbfounded as Helmes scored
Carson's first game for England after his blunder against Croatia a year ago contributed to England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008, turned sour just seconds after Bent's miss when he hesitated to clear a harmless ball as John Terry tried to shield it from the predatory Helmes. With neither England player getting to the ball in time, Helmes nipped in, put the ball through Carson's legs and rolled it into the empty net.
The goal gave Germany fresh confidence and the home side enjoyed a brief spell of ascendency, with Marin testing Carson with a long-range effort which the England keeper could only parry away.
Terry makes amends with winning header
The flying Terry kept England's Berlin record intact
But England were soon back on the front foot and the lively Wright-Phillips struck the post before captain John Terry made amends for his role in the comical German equalizer by meeting a Stewart Downing free-kick with a well-directed header six minutes from time. Germany claimed Terry had infringed his marker Heiko Westermann to get to the ball but the appeals were half-hearted at best.
Despite a history of beating England when it really matters, Germany found themselves stuck with a record of never having beaten England at Berlin in eight encounters when the final whistle blew.
Capello happy with second-string's performance
England coach Capello was rightly pleased with his side's performance , which came after a perfect four-game winning start to the World Cup qualifying campaign, but said the victory by a virtual reserve side sent "no message" to his absent first-choice players.
Fabio Capello's England kept up its current good form
"I said right from the start the players had to recover their confidence and I think the players understand that. You can see that in the game and in training," he said. "The result is important but the performance is very, very good because we played here in Berlin against Germany, a good team.
"We played very well, had a lot of chances to score goals and I liked the attitude of the team. We played with confidence, which is very, very important, and with personality," Capello added.
"They (the absent players) will all be very happy because we won here," the England coach said, adding that he had confidence in his team. "We had the opportunity to know some players better who have not played many games for me. Now, after the game, I know a lot of players better," he said.
"I don't like to speak about one player, always I speak about the team, but all the players played well. It's very important the spirit we play every game."
Germans magnanimous in defeat
Jogi Loew admitted that Germany were second best
Germany coach Joachim Loew said: "England were the better side throughout the game. We had a really bad day today. In the second half we made some inroads into the game but on the whole you can say we deserved to lose."
Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger concurred. "England played tactically well and we simply weren't good enough."