WEMBLEY, England (AP) — England's players left coach Fabio Capello frustrated at their lack of aggression in an unconvincing 3-1 victory over Mexico on Monday.
England, which opens its World Cup campaign against the United States on June 12, relied on goalkeeper Robert Green and a tactical change at halftime to beat its fellow World Cup qualifier.
"The manager wanted more aggression from the whole team," England midfielder Steven Gerrard said. "They had too much possession in the first half, we stood off them and let them play. In the second half we got in their faces and stopped them playing. We need to be more aggressive."
Returning after a three-year international absence, King headed in England's opener in the 17th minute after Crouch's setup across the net.
And Crouch, King's Tottenham teammate, managed to score a second — with the help of his arm — in the 34th from a rebound after goalkeeper Oscar Perez touched Wayne Rooney's header onto the crossbar.
England, though, was being outplayed, with Green twice denying Mexico's Arsenal forward Carlos Vela, while Carlos Salcido hit the goal post.
Guillermo Franco claimed a goal for the visitors seconds before halftime when left back Leighton Baines cleared Rafael Marquez's header at the far post straight to the forward, who scored from close range.
"Mexico are technically very good — they are faster than us and it was not easy getting the ball back," Capello said. "Not all the teams we play against will be like this, but it is very important to press the ball and win it back quickly."
Capello made several changes at halftime with Green, captain Rio Ferdinand, who partnered King in central defense, and Crouch replaced by Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher and Tottenham forward Jermain Defoe.
James Milner, who had been ineffective in central midfield with Michael Carrick, was shifted out to the left, with Gerrard moving into the middle.
"We need to be able to adapt to different formations during a game and also for different opposition," Gerrard said.
And two minutes into the second half, Johnson restored England's two-goal cushion with a curling shot from 20 yards and the home side looked more comfortable.
"We can play better than we did tonight. There's still time to sharpen up," Gerrard said.
There was one late scare for Capello, with striker Rooney indicating he wanted to come off in the closing minutes.
"He said he had a small problem in his neck, but it is not a problem," Capello said. "Rooney is OK. At this moment he just needs to play and find his form."
The four Chelsea players — John Terry, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Ashley Cole — and Portsmouth goalkeeper David James, who played in last weekend's FA Cup final, were rested. Capello will assess them in Sunday's final friendly against Japan in Austria before the 30-man squad is trimmed to 23 by the June 1 FIFA deadline.
King will be allowed to rest his knees on Sunday. The Spurs captain, never featured before in Capello's 30-month reign, looks to have ensured his place in the squad after finally making his 20th England appearance.
"It wasn't one of my best games, but it was tough out there," King said. "The knee is getting better; the more I play the better I get."
Despite the scoreline and being frustrated at how the goals were conceded, Mexico coach Javier Aguirre saw some encouraging signs before his side faces host South Africa in the World Cup opener June 11.
"We need to keep our style and we want to try the same thing again on the 11th of June," said Aguirre, who needs to trim just one player from his squad. "We need to convert our chances more and not concede so early and that will take us to our next level."
Mexico is in action again on Wednesday against the Netherlands and takes on Gambia on Sunday.