Date:Sunday October 12 2008
United players have come to the rescue for England as a thoroughly insipid display against Kazakhstan could have ended in the same dire stalemate than the game against Macedonia at the start of the ill-fated Euro qualifying campaign.
Credit to Frank Lampard for getting the delivery right on two occasions but it was the England captain who produced the killer blow: Rio headed the ball home emphatically with the keeper's caught in no man's land.
I could claim that the second goal also owed much to one of our players - Kuchma was more interested in pushing Rooney away than in the ball, that's how he proceeded to head it into his own net - but it was after 2-1 that Roo really came to life.
In the first half he was as poor as England. It was mystifying why Capello changed the system that worked in Zagreb; I thought Heskey had been called up to bring the best out of Rooney. How in the hell is he supposed to do that if our Wayne is shunted out onto the wing.
Don't get me wrong: he can play there. But only within a fluid attacking unit that's about constant movement and which involves Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. No offence to Emile Heskey but he's never been that category and while Walcott has the potential he's not quite at this level yet.
The second half was a different story: Rooney came to life with the introduction of SWP and so England came to life. Two emphatic finishes - the first after the excellent Wes Brown's pinpoint cross - showed that Wayne's goalscoring form is not about to disappear against Kazakhstan... and that was it, Defoe's excellent goal was merely the icing on the cake.
So it looks like our English players are still in fine form. Vidic was also part of a winning team, as Serbia thrashed Lithuania at home. Evra was part of the French team that might have saved Raymond Domenech's job by coming back from two goals down to earn a point at Romania. Nani and Ronaldo are still lacking sharpness and it was evident as they were ineffectual at Sweden. Fletcher played well for Scotland but the enduring image of the game will be Iwelumo missing from two yards out - it was worse than Forlan v Juventus or that famous Ronnie Rosenthal howler.
Carlos Tevez played an influential role but did not find the net for Argentina: business as usual for the little master then. A return to goalscoring form would be a major boost but we can't expect him to do that from the bench...
Date:Sunday October 12 2008
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