England 5 Andorra 0: Crouch makes running in race to book berth at Rooney's side

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The Independent Football

If their international team looks like a pub side, then how bad must Andorra's pub teams be? It was questions like that which drifted through the mind on Saturday as Steve McClaren's England team hemmed their victims into one half of Old Trafford's pitch in a contest that could only generously be described as a turkey shoot.

Turkeys, after all, possess some mobility and the natural world's instinct for self-preservation - two qualities which, for long periods of the game, Andorra seemed to be lacking. There have been much more humiliating scorelines than 5-0 (McClaren's Middlesbrough lost 7-0 to Arsenal last season) but it was the nature of England's victory, their utter domination of possession, that told the story of the afternoon.

The statistics say England had 80 per cent possession but the failure of Andorra to produce a meaningful shot, cross or sequence of passing was the reason why, in the second half, they got their biggest cheer of the afternoon for being caught offside. That was as close as they got to an attempt on goal.

When Andorra did get the ball, more often than not Owen Hargreaves took it off them and England attacked again. It is not McClaren's fault that his first competitive match in charge was anything but; what is more baffling is why 56,290 supporters turned up to watch.

For many of them perhaps watching the frail little striker Juli Sanchez bounce off John Terry or the misplaced, panicky passes of the Andorra team gave an insight into what it would be like if their own Sunday teams were invited down to Old Trafford one afternoon for a game against the national team. They could do not do much worse.

After matches like these it becomes the England manager to brush aside talk of the opposition's poor calibre and discuss what he and his players have learned from the game. Nothing more than the tune to the Andorran national anthem, would be the honest answer but McClaren is new to the job, eager to show he is making progress and has the first glimmer of a real challenge away in Macedonia on Wednesday. So he talked up a team that have scored nine goals in his two games in charge.

It has recently become a custom with the England team that, when the feathers are flying in these international slaughters, the man blasting away most enthusiastically is Peter Crouch. In the past three home games - against Andorra, Jamaica and Greece - he has scored seven goals and has 10 altogether in 13 caps. It is an astonishing record and it is typical of Crouch's luck that it may not even be enough to keep him in the team when Wayne Rooney returns from suspension to face Macedonia at home on 7 October.

Two goals from Jermain Defoe mean that, in Michael Owen's long-term absence, McClaren has a difficult decision to make about who partners Rooney for this season at least. He has done much to build up Defoe after the damage to his confidence inflicted by Sven Goran Eriksson's decision to leave him out of the World Cup finals squad, and you get the sense that - out of the Tottenham team - the striker's career is reaching a critical, defining moment.

The case for Crouch alongside Rooney, however, is the stronger and that was certainly the players' choice at the World Cup as Eriksson opted for the 4-5-1 formation that left Rooney alone in attack. The Liverpool striker, McClaren said, often makes more runs during a match than any player, covering as much as 14km when the average for a midfielder is 12.5km.

That statistic - which for McClaren, a devout believer in the detailed analysis of players, will prove crucially important - says a lot more about Crouch than a thousand recitals of that hackneyed old half-compliment that he has a good touch for such a tall bloke. Crouch slotted home his first goal in the fifth minute from a Defoe lay-off and headed his second from the substitute Aaron Lennon's cross on 66 minutes.

The switch to the 3-5-2 on 65 minutes after the introduction of Lennon and Kieran Richardson was a revealing glimpse of a possible future. Revealing in the sense that Richardson looks a long way from being an international and seemed the only England player not to understand that the ball needed to be passed around Andorra rather than dribbled through them.

If McClaren is to play with wing-backs one day then he might be tempted to move Lennon over to the left, where he may well play at Tottenham now after the arrival of Steed Malbranque. He played the 3-5-2 system at Middlesbrough although it was never considered by Eriksson because of concerns that it would ask far too much of Gary Neville.

Steven Gerrard cracked home England's second at the back post on 13 minutes and made the third by crossing beautifully for Defoe on 38 minutes. Phil Neville's long looping header from inside the Andorra half fell kindly for Defoe two minutes after half-time but he finished sweetly from close range.

Hargreaves hit the post twice and was quietly outstanding again. If the Manchester United transfer saga has affected him, it does not appear to have had an impact on his football. McClaren repeated his new mantra that no one is - this is his own word - "undroppable" but the Bayern Munich player and Gerrard must be among the closest to that status now.

"The players know that they have to perform to stay in the team," McClaren said. Someone should tell that to the Andorra players. They finally got among their opponents right at the very end but that was for the shirt-swapping which, on reflection, was probably the most the Andorrans got out of the whole afternoon.

England (4-4-2): Robinson (Tottenham); P Neville (Everton), Brown (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), A Cole (Chelsea); Gerrard (Liverpool), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Lampard (Chelsea), Downing (Middlesbrough); Crouch (Liverpool), Defoe (Tottenham). Substitutions: Lennon (Tottenham) for Neville (65), Richardson (Manchester United) for Downing (65), Johnson (Everton) for Defoe (71). Substitutes not used: Kirkland (Wigan), Dawson (Tottenham), Carrick (Manchester United), Bent (Charlton).

Andorra (4-5-1): Alvarez (FC Andorra); Ayala (FC Santa Coloma), Lima Sola (SD Eivissa), J M Garcia (FC Andorra), Javi Sanchez (FC Andorra); Sivera (FC Santa Coloma), Vieira (SD Eivissa), Sonejee (FC Andorra), Pujol (UE Santboia), Ruiz (Ranger's FC); F J Silva (Imperio de Merida). Substitutions: Juli Sanchez (CD Binefar) for Javi Sanchez (h-t); Jimenez (FC Andorra) for Pujol (49); G Garcia (Ranger's FC) for Sivera (77). Substitutes not used: A Sanchez (Santiago Compostel), Moreno (SD Eivissa), Rubio (FC Andorra), Fernandez (FC Santa Coloma).

Referee: B Brugger (Austria).

Booked: England Brown; Andorra Sivera.

Man of the match: Hargreaves.

Tall story: How Crouch's fast start stands up

Peter Crouch has scored 10 goals in just 13 matches for England. Here's how Crouch's first 13 games compare with those of England's all-time leading marksmen.

Bobby Charlton After 13 games: 11 Career tally: 49

Gary Lineker 6, 48

Jimmy Greaves 14, 44

Michael Owen 4, 36

Tom Finney 11, 30

Nat Lofthouse 14, 30

Alan Shearer 5, 30

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