Players make silent protest after Defoe repays Eriksson's gamble

England 2 - Poland 1
Click to follow

Sven Goran Eriksson has always asked to be judged on results and his team duly delivered here last night as England preserved their six-year unbeaten away run in qualifying matches to put their World Cup campaign back in order.

Sven Goran Eriksson has always asked to be judged on results and his team duly delivered here last night as England preserved their six-year unbeaten away run in qualifying matches to put their World Cup campaign back in order.

Stung by the reaction to their performance in Saturday's 2-2 draw in Austria, when they let slip a two-goal lead, England's players responded here with a mature display which earned a deserved victory. However it was one they refused to discuss publicly, having taken the controversial decision on Tuesday night not to talk to the media after last night's match in protest at what they viewed as unfair criticism of their draw in Austria. The team were determined to prove their point on the pitch.

After a brief wobble either side of half-time, during which Poland equalised to cancel out an excellent first international goal by Jermain Defoe, England capitalised on the lucky break of an own goal and dominated the last half-hour. Having failed to win three of their previous five competitive internationals after taking the lead, it was vital that they should close out this game.

Four points from the first two matches, both away from home, will restore confidence, particularly as this result was achieved against opponents who were always likely to provide more of a challenge than the Austrians should have done, especially after the Poles' impressive opening victory over Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Moreover, in Defoe, Eriksson has found a forward who gives him another dangerous option in attack. Replacing Alan Smith alongside Michael Owen, Defoe looked lively throughout. If playing without a conventional target man was something of a gamble, it paid a rich dividend.

The Stadion Slaski was far from full but the home fans did their best to justify their reputation as Poland's most intimidating crowd. It was quite an introduction to competitive international football for Paul Robinson, who replaced David James in goal, despite Eriksson's insistence that his erratic display in Vienna would not cost him his place.

Robinson, whose previous experience had amounted to five friendlies, played with confidence throughout against a Polish attack which for an hour at least posed problems for England's back four, in which Jamie Carragher played at right back for the last 60 minutes after Gary Neville went off with a knee injury. Grzegorz Rasiak and Maciej Zurawski never gave the England defence time to dwell on the ball and Kamil Kosowski, frequently switching wings, was a constant threat.

Defoe immediately looked lively and after 20 minutes had an excellent chance to put England in front. Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge opened up the Polish defence, but the Tottenham Hotspur striker snatched at his shot from just inside the penalty area and the ball flew well wide of a post.

Seventeen minutes later, however, Defoe made amends in emphatic style. David Beckham, who had switched wings, found him with a clever pass into the penalty area and Defoe turned smartly before whipping his shot into the far corner from 15 yards. It was some goal for a 21-year-old winning only his fifth international cap.

Once again, most of England's best attacks originated from their left flank, where Bridge and Cole interchanged and overlapped to good effect. They provided more of a threat than on the right, where Beckham was rarely able to escape the attentions of Tomasz Rzasa.

Having taken the lead, however, it seemed that England might let their advantage slip as the defence came under heavy pressure. Sebastian Mila wasted the best opportunity before the break, miscuing badly after Jacek Krzynowek found him unmarked on the penalty spot. Krzynowek should also have done better after pouncing on Ledley King's headed clearance but scuffed his shot.

The Poles equalised three minutes into the second half. Mila broke through the middle and fed Kosowski, who in turn found Zurawski in space just inside the penalty area. The centre forward had time to place a measured shot into the roof of the net.

Mila might have put the Poles in front two minutes later, firing over the bar, but just when it seemed that England were about to succumb to the home team's passionate response, they broke away to score. Cole crossed from the left and Arkadiusz Glowacki, stretching to prevent Owen sneaking in at the near post, succeeded only in putting the ball in his own net.

Suddenly it was the Poles who looked vulnerable. Bridge broke clear and saw Jerzy Dudek push his shot round a post and Owen began to find room behind the Polish back four. With the crowd silenced, England started to dominate and for the rest of the match kept Poland pegged back by retaining possession and never giving them space. The lessons from Vienna on Saturday had been learned.

Poland (4-4-2): Dudek (Liverpool); Zewlakow (Anderlecht), Glowacki (Wisla Krakow), Bak (Lens), Rzasa (SC Heerenveen); Kosowski (Kaiserslautern), Lewandowski (Shakhtar Donetsk), Mila (Groclin Grodzisk), Krzynowek (Bayer Leverkusen); Rasiak (Siena), Zurawski (Wisla Krakow). Substitutes: Kukielka (Munich 1860) for Mila, 63; Niedzielan (NEC Nijmegen) for Rasiak, 69; Gorawski (Wisla Krakow) for Kosowski, 81.

England (4-4-2): Robinson (Tottenham); G Neville (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), King (Tottenham), A Cole (Arsenal); Beckham (Real Madrid), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Bridge (Chelsea), Defoe (Tottenham), Owen (Real Madrid). Substitutes: Carragher (Liverpool) for Neville, 31; Dyer (Newcastle United) for Defoe, 87; Hargreaves (Bayern Munich) for Beckham, 89.

Referee: S Farina (Italy).