England V Belarus
14 Oct 2009
England 3 - 0 Belarus
A Peter Crouch brace either side of Shaun Wright-Phillips' strike gave England a 3-0 victory over Belarus in their final World Cup qualifier at Wembley Stadium.
Crouch grabbed his first from close range early on, before Wright-Phillips doubled the lead in the second half. The Tottenhem man wrapped up England's ninth win in ten qualifiers on 75 minutes, after Carlton Cole's shot was initially saved by Yury Zhevnov.
Fabio Capello made six changes to the side that began Saturday's game in Ukraine with Ben Foster, Wayne Bridge, Gareth Barry, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Crouch and Wright-Phillips all recieving a starting berth.
With calf injury ruling Wayne Rooney out of contention, Capello paired Crouch and Agbonlahor up front and the duo took just four minutes to repay their Manager's faith by creating England's opening goal.
Barry released Agbonlahor down the left where the Villa man fed the ball across goal. Despite pressure from Sergei Sosnovsky, Crouch managed to direct the ball goalwards and it crept over the line to give England an early lead. It might have come sooner had Wright-Phillips, who replaced the injured Steven Gerrard, been slightly more accurate with a 20 yard drive in the second minute.
The complementary qualities of Crouch and Agbonlahor continued to cause Belarus problems throughout the opening 45, with Crouch's height and aerial ability rendering him difficult to contain when the ball was in the air, while Agbonlahor's pace made him an effective outlet on the counter attack. On one such occassion, from his own half, he raced on to a Barry clearance and forced Zhevnov into a smart save at his near post. From the resulting corner, Zhevnov had to be alert to deny Crouch a second goal. In injuy time at te end of the first half, England's two goal hero tried again, meeting an Aaron Lennon cross at the near post, but the ball flashed narrowly wide.
Belarus kept the ball on the ground as much as possible and although they were confident in possession, they created very little going forward. The only save Foster had to make in the first half came from a low Sergei Omelyanchuk free kick from 25 yards. In the 49th minute Frank Lampard struck a free kick from a similar position, but this effort was palmed over the bar.
England began the second half in much the same vein as they had the first. They controlled possession inside the visitors' half with Lampard, Barry and Lennon looking bright. However, a long distance shot from Omelyanchuk reminded England of the threat Belarus could create. Foater did well to hold on to a moving ball. These two renewed their duel just after the hour mark with the Manchester United 'keeper again coming out on top as his strong wrist kept out a fierce Omelyanchuk drive atthe near post.
David Beckham was introduced in the 58th minute and immediately made an impact, setting up Wright-Phillips for England's second goal of the evening. The substitute played a short corner to the Manchester City wide man, who drilled the ball home from the edge of the area. England looked comfortable with a two goal lead, but Bernd Strange's side were not ruffled and continued with their passing game.
It was England who attacked with greater purpose throughout the game, though, and the victory was sealed with 15 minuted to go as Crouch turned home a rebound from Cole's shot. It was his 18th goal in just 35 appearances.
The scoreline could have looked a lot more healthy had the woodwork not intervened on two occassions late in the game. James Milner, on at left back for the injured Bridge, had foraged forward into the area where he was found by Wright-Phillips. Milner opened his body to shoot but his effort bounced off the far post. Less than a minute later the opposite post denied England, and more specifically, the Nationwide Man Of The Match, Beckham.
Having already qualified for the World Cup with two games to spare, England's final qualifier had little significance in terms of final standings, but Capello's men produced a professional performance to round off a very successful campaign. Next up, is a tantalising friendly against Brazil on 14 November.