England ease the pressure
06 Jun 2007 - 21:38:32
Joe Cole produced a sensational opener and David Beckham claimed two assists as England eased the pressure on under-fire coach Steve McClaren with a comfortable 3-0 Euro 2008 qualifying victory over Estonia.
Cole struck in the 37th minute with a sublime piece of individual skill to break the deadlock, before Beckham set up second-half goals for Peter Crouch and Michael Owen with trademark pinpoint crosses.
Beckham hobbled off midway through the second half with an ankle injury which had troubled him for most of the match, but the former captain provided a resounding reply to anybody still questioning McClaren's decision to recall him after ten months in the international wilderness.
The Real Madrid midfielder took a knock on his left ankle in the opening moments but still came close to breaking the deadlock with a tenth minute free-kick which left Watford goalkeeper Mart Poom rooted to the spot.
Anything other than a victory on the night could have virtually spelled the end of England's qualification hopes for next summer's European Championship and, at times during a frustrating opening half, a goalless stalemate had looked possible.
Crouch was next to threaten the home goal as he side-footed wide from ten yards as he latched on to an Owen knock down and tried to shape a cute shot around the keeper and inside the upright.
But a patient England did open the scoring eight minutes before the interval when Cole controlled a Crouch flick from a Wayne Bridge throw on his chest before swivelling and lashing a superb volley in off Poom's left-hand post from 15 yards.
Vladimir Voskoboinikov was beaten to a threaded through ball by the alert Paul Robinson on the stroke of half-time as the home side briefly threatened after casting off their defensive shackles.
But after Estonia decided to alter their gameplan of containment after falling behind, England took full advantage of weaker opposition after the interval and stretched their advantage without ever having to find top gear.
In the 54th minute, Beckham hit a first-time cross over the top of the last defender and Crouch guided a calm header over the advanced Poom from 15 yards to kill off the game.
Eight minutes later it was 3-0 when Beckham again delivered a pinpoint cross and Owen stabbed the ball home from close range via the outside of his boot for his first England goal in more than 12 months.
Right at the death, John Terry denied Estonia what would have been a popular goal when he cleared Tarmo Kink's shot off the goalline.
But on the night England were always in control and deservedly added three points to their meagre Group E total.
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