Rooney and Defoe double up to punish part-timers
England 6 Andorra 0
Thursday 11 June 2009
Jimmy Greaves was paraded on the pitch at half-time last night, his new 1966 World Cup-winners' medal in his pocket and, even at 69 years old with a hefty belly and a limp, he would probably have scored given a second half run-out.
It was that easy for England in their seventh straight 2010 World Cup qualifying win that takes Fabio Capello into the summer knowing that a victory against Croatia might even be enough in September to see him safely through to South Africa. The Andorra defence was nowhere near as effective as the RMT union's picket line but then when it came to strikers there was just one man that the crowd braved a Tube shutdown to watch.
He, of course, is Wayne Rooney who scored twice in the first half to take his international goals total to 24, level with Sir Geoff Hurst. The Manchester United striker now has 10 goals in seven games for England and he is the main reason why the country still has an absurdly voracious appetite for their national team. Restricted public transport and a match against a team of postmen and car mechanics? 57,897 people turned up last night.
There have been times when the postmen and car mechanics of Andorra have made England's Premier League multi-millionaires look distinctly average but now Capello has refined a way of playing that makes these matches much less painful. Instead of labouring to victory as they have in the past, England scored their first through Rooney within four minutes and the rest was plain sailing.
On a night when Capello's native Italy were twice behind to New Zealand in a friendly, the Wembley crowd was spared any such embarrassment. As well as Rooney there were two goals from Jermain Defoe and one each for Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch, but this was not just about a victory over a ski resort – it was a night of thanks to Capello for putting England back on track.
Even the man himself was caught on camera at one point giving Stuart Pearce a slap on the thigh and exchanging a joke on the bench, about as relaxed as he has ever been during a World Cup qualifier. They play Croatia on 9 September and, if results go well elsewhere, a victory might be enough for qualification. Either way, the prospect of playing the Croatians is nothing like as daunting as it was one year ago.
Capello is off to South Africa this summer to scout possible training bases – somewhere austere and isolated is what, you imagine, he has in mind – and for once no one is accusing an England manager of over-confidence. It was 19 months ago that this team bailed out of Euro 2008 qualifying in the most humiliating fashion and while they do not look like conquering the world quite yet, they have attained a reassuring level of competence.
Without getting carried away there are signs of progress in players such as Glen Johnson who looks like he might have a future as an international right-back six years after he became Roman Abramovich's first signing at Chelsea.
Proving once again that his team selections are unreadable, Capello left out Emile Heskey for Crouch – presumably because the Aston Villa striker is on a booking – but kept in Johnson who is also one card from a suspension. Matthew Upson was not even on the bench, Joleon Lescott picked instead. The England manager is so secretive these days that not even the players knew the team until they arrived at the stadium
The pride of Andorra turned up with a five-man defence and a plan to get 11 men behind the ball when England had possession – which was pretty much all the time. Against the odds it seems that this Andorra team are actually getting worse. They were pretty bad when they turned up at Old Trafford almost three years ago to give Steve McClaren the first competitive win of his doomed regime and they seem to have declined from there.
Twice in home games against England over the last two qualifying campaigns, Andorra have proudly held out until half-time. Last night Rooney scored within four minutes and it was all downhill from there for the visitors.
Rooney had already hit the bar with a reflex header after Theo Walcott's shot was saved before he scored, a header from Johnson's cross at the far post for the first goal. England passed the ball better than usual, tiring out their opponents rather than attempting to dribble through them. David Beckham, who played 90 minutes as a replacement for the suspended Gareth Barry, did not strike as many long balls as he has done in the past when in a central position, instead England looked nimble and kept the ball.
Lampard scored the second goal on 25 minutes, arriving in the box in the second wave to sidefoot Walcott's cut back into the goal. Only when the Andorrans tired did England really start to take advantage in the second half. The fourth goal did not come until the 73rd minute when another pinpoint cross from Johnson, the game's outstanding player, picked out the substitute Defoe for a powerful header. Defoe's second came two minutes later when goalkeeper Koldo Alvarez dropped Beckham's shot at his feet.
Crouch had been battered by Toni Lima for most of the game, and the defender had also gone down easily when given the tamest of shoves by the Portsmouth striker, but he poked home his goal with nine minutes of the game to spare after a defensive mistake. Andorra minds were already on which England player they would be requesting their souvenir from.
England (4-4-2): Green (West Ham); Johnson (Portsmouth), Terry (Chelsea), Lescott (Everton), A Cole (Chelsea); Walcott (Arsenal), Beckham (LA Galaxy), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool); Crouch (Portsmouth), Rooney (Manchester United). Substitutes: Defoe (Tottenham) for Rooney, h-t; A Young (Aston Villa) for Gerrard, h-t; Bridge (Manchester City) for A Cole, 62.
Andorra (5-4-1): Alvarez (Andorra); Ayala (Andorra), A Lima (unattached), I Lima (US Triestina), Sonejee (Santa Coloma), T Garcia (Andorra); Moreno (Gimnastic De Alcazar), Andorra (Santa Coloma), Vieira (Atletico De Monzon), Jimenez (Santa Coloma); Silva (Montijo). Substitutes: Vales (CD Binefar) for A Lima, 46; Fernandez (Santa Coloma) for Silva, 79; Gomes (Ibiza-Eivissa) for Alvarez, 89.
Referee: H Nijhuis (Netherlands).
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