England 3-0 Belarus: Three Lions Bounce Back From Ukraine Defeat
Peter Crouch kept up his impressive scoring record for England and Shaun Wright-Phillips enhanced his chances of going to next year’s World Cup finals with the second as Fabio Capello’s side signed off their qualifying campaign with a victory.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward scored with a scuffed effort after just four minutes and netted again with a tap-in 14 minutes from time to take his tally to 17th goal in 35 internationals, while Wright-Phillips scored England’s second on the hour with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
It was not England’s most fluent display by some distance, but it was sufficient to claim a ninth win in ten competitive matches.
With England having already qualified for next year’s finals in South Africa, there was a carnival atmosphere inside Wembley and Wright-Phillips almost gave the supporters something to cheer inside the first two minutes.
An inswinging free-kick from Frank Lampard was only half-cleared and the Manchester City winger was only just wide with his follow-up shot from the edge of the penalty area.
England did not have to wait long for their breakthrough. On four minutes Gabriel Agbonlahor, making his first England start, latched on to Gareth Barry’s perfectly-timed pass and picked out Crouch’s run into the box.
The Tottenham striker appeared to get the merest of deflections to the ball as he and his marker Sergei Sosnovsky went to ground, but there was some debate as to whether the Belarussian got the final touch. Crouch, nonetheless, was credited with his 17th international goal.
Belarus did their best to mount a reply but Sergei Kornilenko dragged his shot wide from a corner played in to the near post.
Crouch, in his first international start of the campaign, came within a couple of feet of doubling England’s lead, heading just past the post from Frank Lampard’s corner.
Agbonlahor had his first chance to run at the Belarus defence after 20 minutes and he had the confidence and pace to burst into the box and force a save out of Yury Zhevnov.
Glen Johnson wasted a good chance to score his first international goal when he found himself well placed inside the visitors’ area only to mis-hit his shot to such an extent that it flew out of play for a throw-in.
Johnson’s habit of making occasional defensive lapses almost cost England when he was dispossessed by Maxim Bordachev on the left flank, but his low pass in the direction of Kornilenko was over-hit.
Terry then brought down Kornilenko on the edge of the area and although Omelyanchuk’s shot got past the wall Ben Foster was well placed to make the save.
The first half failed to hit the heights, although Crouch headed wide from an Aaron Lennon cross in first-half injury time.
Lampard tested Zhevnov with a curling free-kick in the opening exchanges after the interval, though in truth the goalkeeper could have caught the ball comfortably rather than palm it over the crossbar and he looked unsteady all evening.
David Beckham’s introduction for his 115th cap was greeted with much applause from the enthusiastic crowd before England doubled their advantage on the hour.
A left-wing corner from the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder found its way to Wright-Phillips on the edge of the penalty area and even though his effort was not particularly well hit, it still found a way past Zhevnov, who only succeeded in getting his fingertips to the ball.
Belarus were not there only to make up the numbers and they almost grabbed one back shortly afterwards, Omelyanchuk exchanged passes on the area of the box before hitting a powerful shot that forced Foster to make a diving save.
Crouch, though, had the final say, arriving to stab home from close range after a shot from substitute Carlton Cole had been parried into his path by Zhevnov.
England came close to adding a fourth in the closing minutes. James Milner, who had replaced Wayne Bridge in the second half, weaved his way into the area after some fine retrieving work by Lampard and saw his shot come back off the inside of the post, while Beckham hit the outside of the opposite upright from the ensuing corner.