Ashley Young
England's Young shoots to score past Wales' Williams during their Euro 2012 Group G soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London. REUTERS

A first-half strike from Ashley Young left England on the brink of automatic qualification for next year's European Championships in Ukraine and Poland, after Fabio Capello's side saw off Wales 1-0 at Wembley.

England's victory ensured they remained undefeated in Group G but this was not a performance to spread fear among the giants of European football.

England took the lead in the 35th minute after Stewart Downing's left-wing cross was turned in by Young but both sides struggled to create scoring opportunities in a drab, defensive encounter. Substitute Robert Earnshaw should have grabbed a point for Wales in the 76th minute only to blaze his shot over the bar from six yards with an open goal beckoning.

The result ensured England moved six points clear of Montenegro, against whom Capello's side play their final qualifier on 7 October. England need only a point from that encounter to secure automatic qualification.

"We played well for 20 minutes in the first half but we need to play well for the whole match. We need to play well for every moment," the Italian told BBC Sport after the game.

"Sometimes the result is the most important thing and I think at Wembley our opponents play with more courage and aggression.

"Probably here at Wembley we lose confidence. Some players who usually dribble and go straight at goal don't do it. We pass across the goal four or five times. I always want three players in front of goal, but there was only one."

Wales manager Gary Speed said his side were unlucky not to leave Wembley with a point after Earnshaw's miss.

"He's been great for Wales and will be for years to come. He's a fantastic lad. I'm sorry it had to happen," Speed told BBC Sport.

"It's one of those things and we won't dwell too much on that."