By Mike Collett
England fans joined their French counterparts in roaring out a spine-tingling rendition of the visitors’ Marseillaise national anthem before their friendly soccer international which the hosts won 2-0 at Wembley on Tuesday night.
The supporters also impeccably observed a minute’s silence to honour the victims of the Paris attacks on Friday ahead of a match that will be remembered more for the symbolic nature of the occasion than for the action on the pitch.
Played just four days after the Islamic State’s assault in Paris left 129 people dead, the English fans, along with the away supporters, showed remarkable dignity and respect.
David Cameron, Prince William and London Mayor Boris Johnson were in the stands at Wembley Stadium which was guarded by armed police.
A friendly football game between hosts Germany and Netherlands in Hanover was called off less than two hours before its start on Tuesday for fear of a bomb attack, German police said.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was important for Britain to stand side-by-side with its neighbour.
“Now, more than ever, we must come together and stand united and carry on with the way of life that we know and that we love,” he told parliament. “This match is going ahead.”
Fans applauded as wreaths were laid by Prince William and the managers of the two teams.
Police had urged supporters to arrive early due to additional security searches and said there would be “extra, highly visible, armed officers” patrolling around Wembley.
Common in European countries like France, armed police are generally rarely seen in Britain although they did patrol the London Olympic Games in 2012 and have taken on more of a profile in recent years due to fears of Islamist militancy.
On the field, after France appeared to settle first, almost relieved that the pre-match observations were over, England held the upper hand and took a grip on the game with goals from man of the match Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney either side of halftime.
Young midfielder Alli, winning his fourth cap for England and making his first start, blasted the ball past his Tottenham Hotspur club goalkeeper and France skipper Hugo Lloris for his first international goal after 39 minutes.
Rooney, playing in what is becoming a more and more usual deep-lying role, doubled England’s lead in the 48th minute after Alli, who started the move, found Raheem Sterling who crossed for Rooney to volley home his 51st international goal.
England striker Harry Kane twice went close to scoring, including a searing long-range drive in the second half which flew just wide.
England, who played poorly in a 2-0 friendly defeat away to Spain on Friday, had not beaten France in six meetings since 1997, but the visitors never made it easy for the home side on what was obviously a difficult evening for their players.
The visitors’ best chance fell to midfielder Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace, one of 13 players in the 23-man France squad who are playing, or have played, their club football in England. His seventh minute shot flew just over Joe Hart’s crossbar.
The unusual nature of the occasion was clear throughout the match with the home crowd applauding France substitutes Lassana Diarra and Antoine Griezmann when they came on in the second half.
A cousin of Diarra’s was killed in Friday’s attacks, while Griezmann’s sister was at the Bataclan concert venue where 89 people lost their lives.
There was hardly a foul during the game and afterwards the fans and the England team roundly applauded the France players.