England 3-1 Egypt - Match Report
Peter Crouch came off the bench to score twice for England and stake a telling claim for a starting berth ahead of this summer's World Cup as the Three Lions stumbled to victory over African Cup of Nations winners Egypt at Wembley.
Crouch has a formidable record at international level having now scored 20 goals in 37 appearances and despite his indifferent club form of late, the Tottenham Hotspur forward has now emerged as a certainty to make Fabio Capello's squad and may yet have the chance to partner Wayne Rooney in England's World Cup opener against the USA on June 12th.
England's landmark 500th victory of all time was far from convincing and the first half display in particular was a far cry from the performance Capello had hoped for as his side sought to banish the recent distraction of former captain John Terry's off the field misdemeanours.
The match was unusually stretched from the outset with both teams committing men forward, lacking shape and ultimately looking susceptible to the counter attack.
The first chance of the game fell to the home side courtesy of the pace of Theo Walcott. The Arsenal winger accelerated easily beyond Ahmed Fathy and pulled the ball back for Frank Lampard, who had made a trademark late run into box, but his tame effort was straight down the middle of the goal and easily saved by Essam El Hadary.
At the other end the Egyptians showed plenty of attacking intent of their own and took the lead midway through the first half, albeit in somewhat fortuitous circumstances.
The talismanic figure of Mohamed Zidan, who has been linked with a summer move to the Premier League, capitalised on a costly Matthew Upson slip, controlling the ball well before dispatching it coolly beyond Robert Green.
England stepped up their quest for an equaliser as the half progressed and Lampard was again guilty of squandering an excellent opportunity to score when a blocked Gareth Barry header landed kindly in his path, but he once more failed to connect properly and his left-footed shot cannoned into the ground and harmlessly over the bar.
Capello rung the changes for the second half and one of those substitutes, Crouch, who replaced club colleague Jermain Defoe, wasted little time in extending his impressive international record and drawing England level.
Stand-in skipper Steven Gerrard, who was awarded the captaincy in the absence of the injury-plagued Rio Ferdinand, released Gareth Barry down the right and his low cross was calmly dispatched into the bottom right corner of the net by Crouch.
England took the lead through another substitute, this time in the form of Shaun Wright-Phillips. Debutant full-back Leighton Baines crossed the ball from the left for James Milner, whose thunderous effort could only be parried into the path of Wright-Phillips.
The Manchester City winger duly capitalised with a shot from the edge of the box that eluded the wrong-footed El Hadary.
The lively Wright-Phillips was also involved in England's third, crossing from the right into the path of Crouch, who rolled the ball into the back of the net, enhancing both the margin of victory and his own World Cup prospects.
- Gareth Burton reports from Wembley Stadium
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