LONDON (Reuters) - Chile confirmed they are likely to pose a serious threat at the World Cup with a 2-0 win over an experimental England side thanks to an Alexis Sanchez double as the visitors largely dominated Friday’s friendly at Wembley.
Alexis scored with a superbly timed header after seven minutes and added the second in stoppage time to stretch Chile’s unbeaten run to 10 games and inflict fellow finalists England’s first defeat for a year and a day after 10 matches undefeated.
“It will make everyone in Chile very happy and it was a memorable performance from Alexis Sanchez. He showed tonight he can be a real star of the World Cup,” Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli said of the Barcelona man’s possible impact next year in Brazil.
“A performance like this at Wembley tonight stands him in good stead to have a really good tournament. He showed his class tonight.”
England coach Roy Hodgson gave debuts to Celtic keeper Fraser Forster and Southampton team mates Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez. With his captain Steven Gerrard and other regulars missing, England played well in patches but lacked the harmony of the South Americans.
Hodgson, though, was not too disheartened, telling reporters: “It is going to be hard to make too many immediate judgments, but it was very positive because of what we learnt from the game. One thing we learnt was that we have to play better against Germany on Tuesday.”
England, who also lost 2-0 on Chile’s last visit to Wembley in 1998, were the first to settle and visiting goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was forced into making two important saves in the opening 15 minutes from Phil Jones and Frank Lampard.
Chile gradually took control, though, and were the deserved winners, with the victory wrapped up by Alexis when he lobbed Forster a minute from the end.
Chile went ahead when Alexis, in superb form for Barca this season, nipped in front of left back Leighton Baines and twisted himself to meet a cross from Eugenio Mena to head low and wide of Forster, who had no chance of stopping the effort.
The goal came after Bravo had shown his athleticism at the other end as early as the third minute, when he palmed a Jones header over the bar, but he was also swift to react to a powerfully struck Lampard free kick that took a deflection off the wall after Chile went ahead.
However, with Marcelo Diaz, Eduardo Vargas and the impressive Alexis forcing England on to the back foot, Chile, who finished third in the South American qualifying group, took a grip on the match.
Although Forster could do little to stop the goal, he did well to prevent Jean Beausejour doubling the visitors’ lead when he smothered the Wigan Athletic player’s shot in the 31st minute.
England were not without ideas, and they came close to an equalizer shortly before the break when Rodriguez shot narrowly wide after a well-worked counter-attack that split Chile open.
The second half lacked the excitement of the end-to-end first period, with Hodgson and Sampaoli making a series of substitutes as the game petered out as a contest.
England continue their preparations for the 2014 finals at home to Germany on Tuesday, when they are expected to field a stronger team, while Chile play World Cup hosts Brazil.
Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Stephen Wood and Ken Ferris