Defoe fires England to perfect start

England 4 Bulgaria 0

Jermain Defoe gave the surgeon's knife a swerve and instead carved up Bulgaria with his first England hat-trick to bring a smile back to Fabio Capello's face.

Defoe put off a groin operation that threatened to rule him out of England's opening Euro 2012 opener and gained perfect reward is a deserved win that eased some of the pressure that has been building around Capello.

It took the striker's tally to 15 goals in 44 games. More importantly it moves England straight to the top of Group G.

Another three points in Switzerland on Tuesday and the England boss can start to go about his work in some security again.

He will travel to Basle without Michael Dawson though after the Tottenham man suffered an awful-looking knee injury.

However, after his World Cup trauma, Capello has started to make good decisions again.

Aside from Defoe's obvious matchwinning contribution, Theo Walcott and Joe Hart were outstanding and James Milner looked far more comfortable on the left flank than he did in South Africa.

It will also have pleased him that a substitute, Adam Johnson, scored England's third goal and broke his own international duck on his third appearance.

In claiming he has been built up into a god or a monster by the media, depending on results, Capello also knows his aura of infallibly has been stripped away.

The brutal truth is that from now until such time as England are lining up for their opening match of the European Championships in either Poland or the Ukraine, every success will be met with some scepticism.

Defoe scored after three minutes. Of course, England scored with similar speed in their opening World Cup game against the United States. They didn't win it.

The Three Lions played with verve and panache at times and thoroughly deserved their victory. Then again, they did that nine times in 10 qualifying games under Capello to reach the World Cup. What good did it do them thereafter?

Questions will be asked at every turn. We know Capello is a good coach. It will take him a long while to prove he is a good England coach.

Still, while there are grounds for optimism, the Italian is perfectly entitled to stand on them.

He may have selected seven of the side chiefly responsible for the debacle against Germany in Bloemfontein but there was a definite freshness about his team.

Two of the four who had no part in the Germany match, Hart and Walcott, were among the better performers.

Frank Lampard and John Terry, who both pulled out through injury, and Rio Ferdinand, who was never in contention, were not missed at all.

England could not have made a better start.

Wayne Rooney's pass released Ashley Cole whose initial shot was parried by Nikolay Mihaylov.

The Chelsea man was on to the rebound in a flash and when he turned it back for Defoe, the player who by rights should now be recovering from groin surgery provided an excellent first-time finish.

Walcott's pace caused Bulgaria huge difficulties during a frantic English attacking display. James Milner had a shot deflected wide and Defoe just failed to connect with a low Walcott cross.

The only time England found themselves in trouble was their own fault, when Glen Johnson's attempt to turn Ivelin Popov's cross away for a corner instead threatened a horrendous own goal until Hart plunged across to his right to make a vital save.

Rooney is still struggling to find his touch and at times looked well off the pace. But a sublime chip five minutes into the second half was a reminder of the talent he possesses and Mihaylov needed to make a fingertip save to deny the Manchester United man.

Three direct assists are not to be sniffed at either, even if his international goal drought now extends to 11 games.

Dawson's horrible injury followed. Slow motion replays showed the defender's left knee buckling under him.

As he was carried off in obvious pain, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that he will not be back on a football pitch again for some considerable time, which is heartbreaking for him, and devastating for Harry Redknapp given his opportunity to bring in a replacement ended three days ago.

There followed a pivotal 15 seconds, which started with an excellent Hart reaction save to repel Martin Petrov.

England countered immediately and a flowing move involving Gareth Barry, Steven Gerrard and Rooney ended with Defoe firing through Mihaylov's legs.

Johnson's strike eased England further clear and paved the way for Defoe to complete his momentous three-timer four minutes from time.

The Tottenham striker suffered some kind of twinge as he celebrated and was immediately replaced by Ashley Young.

Capello was left to hope the recovery will be swift, and Defoe confirmed within minutes of the final whistle that he will be ready to face the Swiss.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits