England 6 Jamaica 0: A tall story as Sven's men are given record send-off
Crouch does the trick to lead Jamaica a dance and give England their best ever win under Eriksson as squad revel in a stroll in the park
Sunday 04 June 2006
Of course this would not be England without an injury scare or two. Fortunately the week's bulletins will focus solely on Wayne Rooney's decisive scan on Wednesday after Ashley Cole's strain was revealed by a scan to be minor. Like John Terry, who also collected a niggle, he was substituted before half-time, his team already four goals up.
One of them had been scored by Michael Owen, moving slowly back towards match fitness and revelling in the restored 4-4-2 formation that until Rooney's return - whenever that may be - provides best support for him in the lanky form of Peter Crouch. To the delight of the huge crowd, Crouch claimed a hat-trick, allowing abundant opportunity for the robotic celebrations set before a prince last week. There would have been a fourth goal had he not casually chipped a penalty over the bar. But overall, there was nothing of the robot about the Liverpool striker's performance, demanding once and for all that he must start in the opening game against Paraguay, a side lacking aerial confidence, on Saturday afternoon.
England will go into that game after a sixth successive victory, the least that was expected against a side not going to Germany, whose role was to simulate England's second group opponents, Trinidad & Tobago, as well as facilitating the sort of send-off to a tournament that Iceland offered two years ago on the other side of Manchester - obligingly submitting 6-1. On that occasion Sven Goran Eriksson used 22 players. Yesterday he was restricted to six substitutes, the two before the interval leaving Rio Ferdinand as the only remaining member of the back four expected to start on Saturday. Gary Neville, left out as a precautionary measure, should certainly be fit well before then. Jamie Carragher, bizarrely used as a midfielder in the previous game, deputised competently here and set up the fifth goal for Crouch.
Aaron Lennon and Stewart Downing were both given a run before the finish, after Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard had suggested that they can dovetail successfully in the centre, at least against opposition as limited as this. The same goes for the two strikers, who will also find there are far tougher tasks ahead.
The visitors, who had been beaten 4-1 by Ghana last Monday, fielded only one Premiership player in Charlton's Jason Euell, who ended up as a holding midfield man like the boy with his finger in the dyke. Marlon King, the Watford striker who will be aiming to trouble the likes of Ferdinand and Terry in the Premiership next season, had walked out, complaining about a lack of professionalism in the camp, which was somewhat at odds with his appearance on the hotel doorstep allegedly a little worse for wear at 2.30am. In his absence, the Reggae Boyz had the leisurely build-up of Trinidad & Tobago, but nobody with the guile of Dwight Yorke or the finishing prowess of Stern John with his 65 international goals.
The unfortunate goalkeeper was Bradford City's Donovan Ricketts, an appropriate name after his performance against Ghana, when he made a couple of them. While less blameworthy yesterday, and deserving of sympathy for having to perform behind such an inept defence, the Jamaican captain suffered the indignity of having to pick the ball from his net four times before the interval.
The first three followed set-pieces, beginning with a long free-kick pumped downfield by Paul Robinson towards the inviting target of Crouch's head. The gangling striker duly nodded the ball square for Owen, who hooked it over his head for the unmarked Lampard to dispatch with a smart half-volley.
Six minutes later David Beckham whipped in a classic inswinging free-kick from the left that would have caused consternation in better back fours than Jamaica's. Terry's rugged presence added to the sense of panic and the midfielder Jermaine Taylor denied him a second goal in successive internationals (after waiting 23 games for a first) with the final touch.
Robinson was forced into a good save from Euell and Jermaine Hue had a shot blocked before England scored twice more in the space of three minutes. On the half-hour another Beckham free-kick, aimed at Crouch, earned a corner, from which the captain found his man again for a deft effort with the outside of the foot that bounced in off a defender.
Next Ferdinand sent Owen yards clear of a labouring defence to deceive the goalkeeper and tap into an empty net. Beckham had been visibly limping, but there were other worries. Soon Terry and Ashley Cole had left the field, to be replaced by Sol Campbell and Wayne Bridge.
It was therefore a makeshift England defence that finished the half, which helped explain but could hardly excuse the time and space granted to Luton Shelton (twice) and Southampton's Ricardo Fuller for shots that missed the target. After the interval England's pace slowed in the heat but still brought two further goals and a penalty. Carragher, overlapping smartly, gave Crouch a tap-in midway through the half.
Eight minutes from the end Crouch seemed to have denied himself a hat-trick and cost Eriksson his biggest victory by wasting a penalty after Owen was tripped. But just before the finish Downing's cross and Owen's pass set him up again for the happiest of endings. For now.
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