LONDON (AFP) - A spectacular solo strike from Glen Johnson lit up an otherwise workmanlike performance from England as Fabio Capello's side notched up a 3-1 win over fellow World Cup qualifiers Mexico at Wembley on Monday.
Ledley King marked his first appearance in an England shirt since 2007 with the opening goal and Peter Crouch made it 21 goals in 38 internationals as England recovered from a shaky start to claim control of their final home friendly before they head for South Africa.
The West Ham striker, Guillermo Franco, responded for Mexico on the stroke of half-time but Johnson's lovely, left-footed effort, just after the interval, ensured the encounter finished with a scoreline that was morale-boosting if a little flattering for the hosts.
Capello admitted Mexico had given his side problems but was happy with the evening's workout.
"I'm happy with the result," he said.
"I knew Mexico is good in possession, technically. They are faster than us and it was not easy to win back the ball. I learned a lot about some situations on the pitch. Not only me but also the players - we have to press more to win back the ball quickly."
With Gareth Barry out through injury and Frank Lampard rested along with his FA Cup-winning Chelsea team-mates, Capello granted Michael Carrick and James Milner the opportunity to impress with starts in central midfield.
Neither man made a compelling case for promotion and that was also the case for King, whose defensive lapses might have gifted Mexico a couple of first half goals.
Leighton Baines had a better night filling in for Ashley Cole at left-back in a starting line-up that suggests Theo Walcott, on the right wing, and Peter Crouch, alongside Wayne Rooney in attack, are in line to start England's World Cup opener, against the United States in Rustenburg on June 12.
England's first goal followed an opening period dominated by the Mexicans, who were unfortunate not to be denied an early penalty when Franco turned King in the box and had his shirt pulled by the Tottenham defender before he fired wide.
There was another moment of anxiety for the home supporters when Ricardo Osario's driven cross skidded across the goalmouth before King headed England into the lead.
Gerrard's corner from the left found Crouch at the back post and the striker's knockdown fell invitingly for his unmarked Tottenham team-mate to power a header past Oscar Perez.
Mexico were far from deflated by the setback however and should have equalised, just before the half hour mark, when Carlos Vela, left with only Robert Green to beat after Giovani Dos Santos had escaped from King, saw his shot turned away by the West Ham goalkeeper's right glove.
Green looked beaten when Carlos Salcido clipped the outside of the post with a curling shot shortly afterwards.
But England were soon two goals clear with Gerrard acting as provider once again. The Liverpool midfielder's whipped delivery found Rooney and, although Perez was able to touch his header onto the crossbar, the ball fell back into the goalmouth and Crouch's leap allowed him to bundle it over the line.
Green further bolstered his case to be regarded as Capello's first choice in South Africa with another stop from Vela before Mexico's efforts were finally rewarded deep into first-half stoppage time.
Rafael Marquez's powerful header was cleared off the line by Baines but Franco was on hand to clip the ball past the Everton left-back.
England's advantage was restored, spectacularly, within two minutes of the restart. Having combined with Walcott close to the right touchline, Johnson cut inside at pace, evading a string of indecisive challenges on the edge of the penalty area before curling a left foot shot into the far top corner of the net.
Minutes later Pablo Barrera was booked for bundling Gerrard over as the Liverpool midfielder bore down on the penalty area in pursuit of Rooney's cute reverse pass.
Gerrard struck the resulting free-kick just wide and that was as close as England came to adding to their score until, with eight minutes left, Rooney had a chip cleared off the line with Perez scrambling to get back after charging out of his area to deny substitute Jermain Defoe.
|Coach: F. Capello|
for R. Ferdinand 45'
for R. Green 45'
for P. Crouch 46'
for M. Carrick 62'
for T. Walcott 77'
for J. Milner 85'
|Juve on the same level as Madrid and Barcelona - Dybala|
|Fabregas: Conte´s Italy will be tough|
|Argentina v Chile: New year, same Copa finalists|
|Ronaldo ´cannot be the whole of Portugal´ - Shilton|
|Messi: Neymar is an amazing person|
|Pekerman keen to finish Copa on high note|
|Rakitic: Ronaldo won´t sleep easily|
|Messi: Now is not a time to give nothing|
|Courtois expects to leave Chelsea in future|
|Less rest no problem for Portugal - Joao Mario|
|Euro 2016 Diary: Benteke rap and Nelly the elephant|
|Santos: Group-stage performances behind Portugal|
|Cacic: We cannot let Ronaldo show his strength|
|O´Neill hopes to blow Bale off course|
|Coleman impressed with Ramsey´s discipline|
|O´Neill fires derby passions ahead of Wales showdown|
|Coleman: Take emotion out of Northern Ireland clash|
|LFP sanctions six Nice players for flouting gambling rules|
|Hungary v Belgium: Lukaku targets last-four spot|
|Dyke hopes Brexit can help England youngsters|
|No favourites against Italy, says Koke|
|Krychowiak not thinking about PSG as Poland stand by Lewandowski|
|World Cup qualifying: Algeria, Cameroon and Nigeria drawn in same group|
|Brexit may damage Premier League´s pursuit of young European players|
|Germany v Slovakia: Weiss confident of repeat Augsburg success|
|France v Republic of Ireland: Long not on Henry revenge mission|
|Chelsea midfielder Baker extends Vitesse loan|
|Chiellini concerned over Brexit ´domino effect´|
|Staying in Euro 2016 gets Coleman´s vote|
|Nainggolan has a room with a balcony so he can smoke - Wilmots|
|Petkovic attempts Poland mind games|
|Wilmots would rather play Spain than Hungary|
|Morata deserves more than being a Madrid bargaining chip - Chiellini|
|AZ want record fee for Janssen|
|What does Brexit mean for European football?|
|I´m not tired, I feel sharp - Kane hits back at critics|
|Delighted Kiyotake hopes to prove his value|
|Premier League confident Brexit will not diminish its success|
|Neuer wary of Hamsik´s long-range shots|
|Genesio: Lyon do not have to sell|
|Morata thanks Juventus fans after Real Madrid return|
|Lapadula undergoes AC Milan medical|
|Santos: Not everything revolves around Ronaldo|
|Icelandic chihuahua prepares to chase the England rhino|
|Jakupovic signs new Hull City contract|
|Lagerback: Brexit will not affect England team|
|ES Setif disqualified from CAF Champions League|
|Gerland sees Kimmich as Lahm´s long-term successor|
|Navas ´recovering nicely´ from heel injury|
|Messi excited by future Barcelona challenges|
|Conte´s Italy like Atletico and Barcelona, says Xavi|
|Zidane the man to take Madrid forward, says Baptista|
|United States v Colombia: Hosts out to end Copa America on a high|
|Aubameyang: It´s my dream to play in Spain|
|Wenger not interested in France job|
|Ronaldo: Euro 2016 surprises end now for Portugal|
|Coke hopeful Sampaoli can exceed Emery at Sevilla|
|Maradona: Portugal too dependent on Ronaldo|
|´What a disaster´ - Messi takes aim at AFA|
|Guidetti: Nolito will thrive at City|
|Wanyama thanks Southampton fans following Spurs switch|
|Kranjcar: Rangers can push Celtic all the way|
|Euro 2016 Diary: Icelandic heaven and Rooney not feeling the love|
|Wenger respects Vardy, talks up Kante|
|Rooney wants to end ´disappointing´ tournament record for England|
|Di Maria in serious doubt for Copa America final|
|´We gave it all´, Alaba tells Austria fans|
|Euro 2016 Social Round-Up: Last 16 sides prepare for the knockout rounds|
|Osorio to stay on as Mexico manager despite Copa humbling|
|Tottenham complete Wanyama signing|
|Claridge: England are misusing Jamie Vardy|
|Marseille complete double swoop|
|Wales v Northern Ireland: Evans eager to prolong Irish dream|
|Underdog heroics justify UEFA´s bulkier Euros|
|Atletico Madrid president confirms Vrsaljko move|
|Rejecting Arsenal a ´mature´ move for Leicester star Vardy - Claridge|
|Switzerland v Poland: Seferovic targets final, Pazdan staying humble|
|Juanfran: Spain can use Atletico´s philosophy|
|´It’s always nice to finish above the English´ - Bale sticks the boot in again|
|Euro 2016´s top five moments so far: Payet cries a river as newcomers steal the show|
|Galatasaray fail in CAS appeal|
|´Nice will forever be in my heart´ - How France legend Just Fontaine kickstarted his career on the C|
|Team of the Euro 2016 group stage: Payet, Perisic join blistering Bale|
|The flop XI of the Euro 2016 group stage: Kane and Ibrahimovic join limp Lewandowski|
|O´Neill delighted with Northern Ireland draw placing|
|Germany optimistic on Boateng fitness|
|Croatia v Portugal: Cacic determined to spring another shock|
|Icelandic strongman Magnusson mocks Portugal´s Ronaldo|
|Noble expects West Ham stay for Payet|
|Petrov joins Villa for pre-season camp|
|´We always score our penalties´ - Hallgrimsson sends warning to England|
|Kalinic expects Croatia to progress|
|Rooney respect for Hodgson´s Slovakia gamble|
|Vardy stays at Leicester: Champions buoyed, but what next for Arsenal?|
|Lafferty backs Northern Ireland to go all the way|
|Elmohamady extends Hull stay|
|Hodgson demands ruthlessness from England to open up Iceland|
|´He was nearly dead six years ago´ - Coleman full of admiration for Duffy|
|Rangers seal Kranjcar deal|
|Iniesta wary of ´powerful´ Italy|
|I wanted to rest Gera - Storck|
|Gera living late career dream after waking from injury nightmare|
|Vardy to stay at Leicester after agreeing new contract|
|Morata still wanted by ´top Premier League clubs´|
|Sigurdsson warns Iceland of danger posed by golf buddy Kane|
|Pekerman furious with referee after Colombia´s Copa exit|
|Euro 2016 is wide open, says Cahill|
|Pizzi hails Chile´s ´winners´ mentality|
|Bjarnason hails team spirit among Iceland friends|
|Coentrao defends Ronaldo: ´Speak now, parrots!´|
|MLS Review: Alberg hat-trick inspires Union, RSL leave it late|
|Conte: I´m not from the moon, I know Spain are good|
|Santos wants more from Ronaldo|
|Colombia 0 Chile 2: Early goals see defending champions into Copa final|
|Martino receives Di Maria boost ahead of Copa final|
|De Gea thanks his critics for motivating him|
|Barca not contemplating Neymar exit|
|Pain before pleasure for Sigurdsson and Iceland´s heroes|
|Lavezzi remains upbeat despite Copa-ending injury|
|Smell of injustice: Swedish player cops farting red|
|Ibrahimovic ´very proud´ of Sweden career|
|Euro 2016 Diary: Germany grab the sunloungers, Benzema on the beach and life through a lens|
|´If you don´t know nothing, keep quiet´ - Deeney responds to speculation|
|Wilmots: Belgium must be more clinical|
|Vote remain and we´ll forgive you for 1966! - German newspaper wade into Brexit debate|
|Hamren: Sweden will never find another Ibrahimovic|
|Conte: Ireland got more than they deserved|
|O´Neill hails Ireland heroes|
|Hazard: Ibrahimovic not done yet|