England scrape home
10 Jun 2006 - 16:24:57
England got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start against Paraguay thanks to a Carlos Gamarra own goal, but Sven-Goran Eriksson must have been disappointed with his side's display.
Gamarra flicked a fourth-minute David Beckham free-kick past his own goalkeeper and England went on to dominate the first half, with Joe Cole threatening throughout.
They surrendered the impetus after the break and were fortunate Paraguay were not good enough to take advantage.
The display did little to suggest Eriksson has got the balance right in midfield, while his mystifying decision to replace Michael Owen with Stewart Downing shortly after the break only made matters worse.
England controlled the first half and the first set-piece delivery from Beckham led to Gamarra heading into his own goal.
From that point it was clear Paraguay's central defenders were vulnerable to the ball in the air and England looked to use Peter Crouch as often as possible.
Little worked for the giant striker, but his presence caused havoc in the Paraguay defence and Steven Gerrard was able to feed off the scraps. Unfortunately the Liverpool midfielder's range was off and his long-range shots failed to trouble the goalkeeper.
Beckham had England's best chance for a second before the break after Ashley Cole and the impressive Joe Cole combined to set him up on the edge of the area. The skipper's curled shot bounced just inches wide.
Little was seen of Paraguay as an attacking force in the first 45 minutes, but they gave England a real scare in first-half stoppage time. The defence failed to deal with a Roberto Acuna cross and the loose ball fell to Nelson Valdez, but fortunately for England his powerful shot was narrowly wide of the target.
England's second-half display was lack-lustre as they allowed Paraguay to take control in midfield.
However, the South American side struggled to create any clear-cut chances and Paul Robinson had little to do.
Their best second-half opportunity came when Robinson failed to hold a Carlos Bonet cross, but the Tottenham shot-stopper recovered quickly to put off Valdez and the striker fired the loose ball over.
Frank Lampard twice forced Aldo Bobadilla into saves with long-range shots, but they were rare highlights as England laboured in the heat.
Eriksson will be hoping for better against Trinidad & Tobago, particularly from Lampard and Gerrard.