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. Green 45'
for R. Ferdinand 45'
for P. Crouch 46'
for M. Carrick 62'
for T. Walcott 77'
for J. Milner 85'
|Young players should not need a break, says Dyche|
|Tottenham acquire final piece of land for new stadium|
|Palestinian FA speaks out against Israel-Belgium venue selection|
|Valdes enjoying football again after injury nightmare|
|Emotional Cha retires ´a happy man´|
|Dortmund´s Kirch suffers knee injury|
|Newcastle need to be mentally prepared, says Williamson|
|Leno ´knows nothing´ of Real interest|
|Tunisia to compete in AFCON after apology|
|Van der Vaart not allowing future to affect his game|
|Vlaar: Sherwood has reduced stress levels|
|Roma hit by Gervinho hamstring blow|
|Jones optimistic over Everton´s strike partnership|
|Milik sustains knee ligament damage|
|Georgia fear stadium closure for Scotland clash|
|Zamparini: Juventus and Arsenal have bid for Dybala|
|South Korea 1 New Zealand 0: Lee nets late winner|
|Japan 5 Uzbekistan 1: Five-star hosts maintain Halilhodzic start|
|European clubs benefit from UEFA agreement|
|Vassell: Sky is the limit for Kane|
|Manchester United move would be an ´honour´ for Coentrao|
|Insigne out to bolster Napoli season after lay-off|
|Rooney warns Kane over ´clever´ Italy defenders|
|Rangers results reveal £500,000 Newcastle clause|
|Southampton announce £33.4m profit|
|´I am a very flexible man´ - Van Gaal|
|A-League Preview: Top spot up for grabs|
|Portugal - Cape Verde Preview: Andre and Oliveira eager for international bows|
|Puerto Rico 0 Canada 3: Floro´s men rout hosts|
|Xavi denies Al Sadd link|
|Fernando´s life ban upheld by CAS|
|Argentina - Ecuador Preview: Messi remains doubtful for friendly|
|Falcao equals Colombia´s all-time scoring record|
|Macedonia trip good learning curve - Postecoglou|
|Macedonia 0 Australia 0: Stalemate in Skopje|
|Del Bosque not out for Netherlands revenge|
|Burton Albion 1 Stevenage 1: Both teams score at wrong end in draw|
|Pekerman: I have no say on Falcao´s Manchester United future|
|Buffon has studied England new boy Kane|
|Conte urges patience from Italy fans|
|Johnson tasked with keeping Cheltenham up|
|Rooney not keen on Serie A switch|
|Kane to make first England start|
|Colombia 3 Kuwait 1: Spot-on Falcao equals Iguaran record|
|Goal-shy Barkley eyes striker´s role|
|UEFA opens disciplinary proceedings against Montenegro and Russia|
|Draxler and Choupo-Moting back in training|
|Ghana v Mali: Last chance to impress before Giresse return|
|Wilson: Gibraltar getting stronger|
|Mata confident of Spain future|
|Armenia coach Challandes resigns|
|Hiddink rubbishes talk of Dutch negativity|
|Portugal v Cape Verde: Santos set to rotate|
|Loren hails Moyes for Sociedad surge|
|Cruyff brands Netherlands ´a disgrace´|
|Kick It Out backs Barnes over race comments|
|Argentina v Ecuador: Messi remains doubtful for friendly|
|Coates backs Hughes ambition at Stoke|
|Atletico able to call on Saul again|
|Italy v England Preview: Kane set to start after dream debut|
|Zidane would accept Real job|
|Hernandez frustrated by lack of Real opportunities|
|Spartak donate money to 102-year-old fan after robbery|
|Clasie pulls out of Netherlands squad|
|Italy´s Bertolacci out of England friendly|
|Newcastle post record profit as Ashley debt stays the same|
|Al Sadd: We want Xavi to bring tiki-taka|
|Lacazette expected frosty Saint-Etienne reception|
|Barnes: I can´t get back into management because I´m black|
|Rooney praises England aggression|
|Southgate tips Kane for return to U21s|
|Mexico v Paraguay: Goals in order for Copa America aspirants|
|Netherlands - Spain Preview: Wijnaldum rallies behind under-fire Hiddink|
|Peru v Venezuela: Sanvicente wants Venezuelan response|
|Carvalho confident of playing Juventus|
|Neymar demands protection after Medel stamp|
|MLS Review: RSL, Fire secure breakthrough wins|
|Firmino firmly on radar - Dunga|
|O´Neill delighted with second-half display|
|First-half dominance pleases Deschamps|
|Muller criticises Germany profligacy|
|Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Portugal go top, Gibraltar make history in defeat|
|Liverpool the only English club I could play for - Suarez|
|France 2 Denmark 0: Lacazette off the mark in routine victory|
|Republic of Ireland 1 Poland 1: Long rescues vital point|
|Portugal 2 Serbia 1: Coentrao puts hosts top of Group I|
|Strachan hails ´terrific´ Gibraltar|
|Lafferty back playing with a smile on his face - O´Neill|
|Toure to reveal Ivory Coast future over coming days|
|Georgia 0 Germany 2: Reus and Muller on target for world champions|
|Northern Ireland 2 Finland 1: Lafferty inspires fourth qualifying success|
|Scotland 6 Gibraltar 1: Casciaro´s historic moment outshone by Fletcher´s hat-trick|
|France 2-0 Denmark: Lacazette and Giroud on target|
|Firmino hopeful of Copa America spot|
|Hummels considering options at Dortmund|
|Suarez goalless on Anfield return, but Balotelli nets stunner|
|Casciaro scores first competitive goal for Gibraltar|
|Fleetwood Town 1 Preston North End 1: Ball stunner claims share of derby spoils|
|Italy v England: Judge me on results, says Conte|
|Colombia v Kuwait: Falcao seeking another strong showing|
|Brazil 1 Chile 0: Firmino settles scrappy affair|
|Luxembourg v Turkey: Let´s kick on, urges Terim|
|South Africa 1 Nigeria 1: Zungu strikes late to earn draw|
|Smalling wants long-term United stay|
|South Africa 1-1 Nigeria: Last-gasp Zungu goal cancels out Musa strike|
|Italy call up Santon and Abate for England friendly|
|Switzerland v United States: Klinsmann eyes learning curve|
|Netherlands v Spain: Hiddink has players´ support, says Wijnaldum|
|A-League Review: Sydney end Wellington run, Adelaide suffer injury blows in Jets win|
|Henderson eyes long-term Liverpool future|
|I have nothing to prove - Bale|
|Brazil 1-0 Chile: Firmino gives Selecao battling victory|
|South Korea v New Zealand: All Whites looking to future|
|Japan v Uzbekistan: Hosts eye another win under Halilhodzic|
|MLS Review: Kaka nets in Orlando draw|
|Mexico 1 Ecuador 0: Hernandez, Corona help Herrera´s men to victory|
|Deschamps calls for France response|
|Dunga unfazed by pressure|
|Montenegro fan turns himself in after flare incident|
|Injured Messi not ready - Martino|
|Hodgson: Rooney not close to Charlton|
|Terim proud of Turkey|
|Hiddink happy with point|
|Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Netherlands and Italy stage late escapes|
|Debutant Eder delighted with Azzurri bow|