Beckham free-kick sinks Ecuador
25 Jun 2006 - 18:59:52
A trademark free-kick from David Beckham sunk Ecuador in the sweltering heat of Stuttgart and sent England in to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
The skipper struck an hour in to a drab match, lifting the ball over the defensive wall from 25 yards out and seeing it drop down in to the bottom corner of Cristian Mora's goal.
England still looked well short of the level needed to win the tournament, but it was at least their best performance of the finals and is sure to have given Sven-Goran Eriksson some reason for optimism.
His new look five-man midfield gave the side a more balanced look, with Michael Carrick outstanding in the holding role, while Wayne Rooney showed signs during the second half that he is nearing his menacing best.
However, goalkeeper Paul Robinson looked shaky and John Terry experienced a number of nervous moments that a better team that Ecuador may well have punished.
The South American side offered little going forward and their best chance came directly from one of those Terry mistakes.
England started the game in a confident manner, knocking the ball about in midfield and trying to work openings for Rooney, but it was almost wasted when the Chelsea central defender made a hash of a defensive header 25 yards out.
He somehow managed to head the ball behind him and in to the path of Carlos Tenorio, who advanced in to the England box and looked certain to score.
However, he took too long and Ashley Cole was able to get back in time to make a crucial block which sent Tenorio's shot spinning on to the crossbar and out for a corner.
Joe Cole then missed a golden chance at the other end, miscuing his header from a Steven Gerrard cross away from goal when it looked simpler to score.
Frank Lampard tested the Ecuador goalkeeper with a long-range shot, but there was little other danger before the interval.
England, with Rooney looking fired up, started the second half strongly and got their reward after Lampard was fouled 25 yards from goal.
After wasting several set-piece opportunities during the first half, Beckham stepped up confidently and despatched the ball beyond the despairing dive of Mora.
Ecuador only once looked likely to get back into the game, but Robinson was equal to Luis Valencia's strike, and England should have added to their lead.
Rooney saw a firmly-struck shot saved and Lampard smashed a shot over the bar when well placed, but it mattered little.
Beckham was forced to leave the field in the closing stages after being sick, but he walked off having answered his critics and led the national team in to the last eight of the World Cup finals for the second time.
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