Gerrard's duet with Lampard keeps formation dancing

Inspirational midfielder is convinced he can make crucial partnership work for 4-4-2 system
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The Independent Football

Let's just describe it as appreciation for those who had arrived at Old Trafford to offer Sven Goran Eriksson's boys an enthusiastic send-off to Germany and the coach himself, on his final game on English soil, an auf wiedersehen, but found themselves rewarded with a contest scarcely more onerous than a public training session, in which Jamaica were willing co-conspirators.

On Friday, Eriksson had consulted his players on their preferred style. To no one's great surprise, despite some obscure experimentation in recent days, we were back to where we started, with the Swede's favoured line-up of 4-4-2.

An energised Peter Crouch, whose menace you just suspect may be thwarted by more cynical opposition than the off-key Reggae Boyz, and a still sluggish Michael Owen operated well enough in harmony. Yet, while they do so, it leaves Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard occupying similar territory behind the attacking pair, and England without a holding midfielder. The Liverpool captain, scorer of 23 goals for his club last season, did not have one strike on goal as he settled for a role behind his Chelsea counterpart.

As he has said often enough, it is not his ideal form of deployment, but it was effective enough here. Indeed, when Lampard converted England's first goal, Gerrard prudently dropped behind in support when every instinct of that attack-minded player must have been to thrust forward.

With Joe Cole having settled the left-side conundrum, albeit as a primarily right-footed player who relishes cutting inside, that central midfield remains arguably the most contentious part of Eriksson's strategy, and the subject of most public debate. But as Gerrard, who is manifestly more suited to running on to the ball from deep than being deployed as a second striker, told me recently: "We discuss our respective roles all the time. I'm confident that Frank and I can go to the tournament and be as good as we want to be. I think the talent's there and the understanding and communication's there, so I know we can make it work."

He added: "We have to make sure that one of us is disciplined at all times, but we're both experienced players who have played at the top for some time now. We know we can't afford to get it wrong on this stage. If Frank is breaking forward, I've got to be careful I don't get caught up in it, that we don't all charge forward and we get caught on a counter-attack."

Only rarely did Jamaica threaten that. Though a series of bruising challenges from the "tourists" provided a physical impression of what England may expect in six days' time against Paraguay, and beyond, there was little of the defensive resourcefulness from the "tourists" that Eriksson's team can anticipate once the tournament begins.

Yet, in a curious way, this facile going-away present revealed possibly more concerns about England's chances of securing the elusive trophy than a 6-0 scoreline should.

Maybe it was just a touch of complacency against these rivals, or maybe too many England players were distracted by the prospects of events next Saturday, but when, just occasionally, Jamaica did exhibit some attacking verve around goal, Eriksson's defenders were not always their dependable selves. John Terry, who would subsequently be substituted with a knee injury, slipped in the first half and yielded Jason Euell a decent opportunity. It required all Paul Robinson's concentration and agility to ensure that the Charlton striker didn't profit from the Chelsea captain's aberration.

Young Luton Shelton twice worked himself reasonable openings, from which he failed to profit, albeit when opposed by a newly-formed rearguard, Sol Campbell having replaced Terry and Ashley Cole making way for Wayne Bridge. Ricardo Fuller also shot wide from a further opportunity.

Beckham played within himself but still managed sufficient of those deftly-delivered crosses - one forcing Jamaica into a first-half own-goal - to confirm that he can withstand any challenge from young Aaron Lennon. The captain's substitution did eventually allow the Tottenham midfielder a full debut, at 19, in the second half.

Michael Carrick's excellent ball to him which he cut back to Owen, culminated in the penalty award, which was spurned by Peter Crouch. Generally well marshalled, Lennon found this a tougher examination than he had in the B international against Belarus.

So, with many misgivings, it's farewell then, Sven, after five and a half years. During that time he has extracted much sporadic promise from his teams, but ultimately gained insufficient reward. Unless, of course, he is yet to return here with England as his World Cup winners. Or maybe to manage an English club, as his loquacious partner, Nancy Dell'Olio, hinted last week.

Despite his England team departing on a high note, something tells you the latter is more likely.

Man for man at Old Trafford


Star performer: Peter Crouch (9) 8

Ran through full repertoire including penalty that was far funnier than his robotic goal celebration. Scored hat-trick, nod-down led to opening goal, and dropped back well into midfield.

Paul Robinson (1) 6

Little to do against limited opposition but produced fine save at full stretch after rare error by Terry. Substituted at half-time by James.

Jamie Carragher (2) 6

Efficient at right back and his occasional bursts forward included excellent overlap into penalty area to lay on Crouch's second goal.

Rio Ferdinand (5) 6

Dealt comfortably with limited threat posed by a poorly supported Jamaica strike force. Beautifully weighted pass for Owen's goal.

John Terry (6) 5

Not as forceful as usual but pressure brought own goal for 2-0. Error let in Euell for shot that Robinson saved. Substituted with tight hamstring.

Ashley Cole (3) 6

Dealt competently with occasional speedy breaks down the flank and made a couple of his own. Replaced after 35 minutes with minor injury.

David Beckham (7) 7

Excellent set-pieces, including free-kick that led to own goal and corner for Crouch's first. Twisted his ankle so replaced as precaution on 68 minutes.

Frank Lampard (8) 7

Started with a bang, putting away opening goal with precision. Kept control in wide open midfield until substituted with 22 minutes to play.

Steven Gerrard (4) 6

Absence of telling breaks forward but provided reliable anchor in midfield. Made important tackles on rare occasions when danger threatened.

Joe Cole (11) 6

Worked hard but runs were rare and offered few glimpses of his exciting ability on the ball. Unleashed decent 20-yard shot in second half.

Michael Owen (10) 7

Played full 90 minutes but still lacks sharpness. Won wasted penalty and set up Crouch smartly for final goal. Took his own goal calmly.


Sol Campbell (16) 5

Caught out when first came on but steadied his game without shining.

Wayne Bridge (12) 5

Unconvincing in defence and showed little coming forward.

David James (13) 6

Did nothing wrong but then he had virtually nothing to do.

Aaron Lennon (20) 5

Shunned chances to make runs but helped to win the wasted penalty.

Michael Carrick (18) 6

Showed neat touches and passes.

Stewart Downing (21) 6

Set up last goal with perceptive pass.

Mark Burton