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England 6 Andorra 0: It's one-way traffic for the Capello bandwagon as Rooney slams his foot down
Published : 11 Jun 2009 02:19:41
Predictably, beating Andorra proved a good deal easier than actually getting to Wembley to see it. But for those who did brave the traffic chaos to sit in a stadium that was, at best, two-thirds full, there was still plenty to admire. A seventh straight World Cup victory that took England within touching distance of South Africa and, for Wayne Rooney, two goals that carried him into the record books. For England's No 10 it has been a near-perfect 10 of a season - 10goals that equal Gary Lineker's return a year after Italia 90, with eight of those matching a mark that has stood for more than half a century. Rooney will not supersede Tommy Taylor as the most prolific scorer of England goals in pursuit of a place at a major championship. Andorra were never going to put up much of a fight here, not when their entire population could have sat inside this magnificent arena with 8,000 seats to spare and not when most of their players have to hold down other jobs. These mountain men have to work as insurance brokers, builders and physiotherapists and they were always going to struggle against Capello's millionaires. But it was the sheer professionalism of his players that would have pleased the England manager, the calm, comprehensive manner in which they first crushed Kazakhstan and then annihilated Andorra. And all at the end of what, for many of the side, has proved a long and gruelling season. They so dominated their opponents that it had the feel of a one-sided friendly. Robert Green did not even touch the ball for 23 minutes and once Rooney and Frank Lampard had secured a three-goal lead, Capello began to make changes. Off came Rooney and Gerrard to start their summer holidays a little earlier than expected and on went Jermain Defoe and Ashley Young. No more goals for Rooney but no matter. The Manchester United striker had more than done his job and Defoe was left to score two goals that will do much for his confidence as an England player. There were other reasons for Capello to be cheerful. David Beckham's contribution in central midfield demonstrated his continued worth to the England squad. The accuracy and range of his passing was excellent. And after a difficult opening 45 minutes in Almaty on Saturday, Theo Walcott and Glen Johnson showed that they can play together. Johnson had a terrific game as well as hand in the first four goals, deservedly earning him the man-of-the-match champagne. The only surprise last night came in Capello's starting line-up. Peter Crouch was selected ahead of a rested Emile Heskey and responded with the sixth of England's goals, while Joleon Lescott appeared in the place of Matthew Upson. Leaving Heskey in the stand made sense when a booking would have ruled him out of the rather more difficult encounter with Croatia in September. But Lescott for Upson was more perplexing, even if West Ham's centre-half was among England's more disappointing performers against Kazakhstan. That Upson was not on the bench either would seem to suggest Capello thought him pretty damned awful. Not that any of it made a blind bit of difference to the way England now dismantle the defences of lesser opponents. They dominated from the start, scoring inside three-and-a-half minutes after what proved achastening start for David Rodrigo's part-timers and a total nightmare for Koldo Alvarez. This was the Andorra goalkeeper's last appearance for his country and England did not exactly give him a warm send-off. He did well to divert a chip from Rooney over his crossbar but could do nothing to prevent Rooney securing the lead with a beautifully executed header that owed as much to the quality of the delivery from Johnson as it did the finish. Andorra could offer nothing in response, not even a clearance that would carry the ball out of their own half. On a surface so superior to the pitch that invited such criticism after the FA Cup semi-finals, England were simply a class apart. They took a while to score their second - a further 25 minutes - but it was again superb in its execution. A neat pass from Johnson set Walcott free to pull the ball crisply back into the path of Lampard, who drove a low shot past the diving Alvarez from the edge of the penalty area. Nice move. Nice goal. Johnson was having a wonderful game, providing the cross that enabled Rooney to increase England's lead in the 39th minute with a stunning volley. Changes in personnel did nothing to alter the balance of this encounter. England remained in control and when Johnson delivered yet another perfect cross in the 73rd minute, Defoe was there to steer an athletic header past Alvarez. His second arrived three minutes after that, this time when Alvarez failed to hold a free-kick from Beckham and invited the striker to pounce. Crouch completed the job four minutes later. For Andorra his was the most embarrassing goal of all, a defensive mix-up allowing the Portsmouth striker to just about walk the ball across the line. England march on.