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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
England 4-0 Slovakia

Heskey, 7
Rooney, 70, 90+2
Lampard, 82

Forget about the result. A 4-0 victory over a substandard Slovakia might look nice on the scoreboard, but it has no place in the bigger picture. Fabio Capello will be far more concerned by a dramatic injury crisis in his frontline ahead of Thursday morning's crucial clash with the Ukraine. England are hardly blessed with first class strikers as it is, but groin strains for Emile Heskey, his replacement Carlton Cole and then a nasty kick on the hip for his replacement Peter Crouch, will leave Capello scraping the barrel for an effective frontman. Only Wayne Rooney remains and even he limped his way through the last twenty minutes.

With Gabriel Agbonlahor woefully out of form, Michael Owen and Theo Walcott recovering from knocks and Dean Ashton in his natural state of being broken, it looks like Bolton's Kevin Davies might be getting a phonecall. Don't laugh. He's the joint second highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League and he's just about the only one who can still run.

Capello will have to think hard about personnel, but it seems that he has resisted the temptation to tinker with his tactics too much. However, while England lined up in a standard 4-4-2, it was clear that he had given special instructions to Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. Between them, they tore Slovakia apart on the left side of the final third, interchanging, swapping positions and reading each other's movement so well that a casual observer might have thought they were club team-mates. As if that could ever happen.

But while those two excelled, you couldn't be entirely complimentary about everyone else. Despite enduring a start so poor that it seemed that the entire team had slept in, Slovakia were able to make chances before they capitulated completely after the break. Some clever passing moves enabled them to cause England a few more problems than John Terry and Matthew Upson might have expected, but herein lies the drawback to having a midfield comprised of cultured playmakers over robust blockers. The extra creativity paid off eventually though, as Slovakia's grip, such as it was, slackened and England ran riot.

Rooney was exceptional. After a week of criticism over his behaviour at Craven Cottage, he put in a performance that reminded everybody just how effective he can be when he puts his mind to it. With all that aggression channelled into his game and not expelled at the officials, he gave a near-perfect example of what a free-roving attacker should do. He was tenacious without being dirty. Forthright without over-stepping the mark. His movement was sublime and his finishing deadly accurate.

He had David Beckham to thank for his first goal. The former England captain appeared after half-time to pick up his record-breaking 109th cap and went on to prove that he's not just there to make up the numbers. His fine cross was dispatched by Rooney into the top corner and the Manchester United forward's second goal, coming after Frank Lampard's late strike, put the seal on what should have been a most satisfying night for Capello.

Unfortunately, far from being pleased, the Italian boss will now have to pray that this friendly hasn't destroyed his preparations for midweek. The Ukraine may no longer be as fearsome as they were a few years ago, but they are still quite capable of coming to Wembley and grabbing all the points. It's going to be a worrying three days for Capello.

STUPIDEST MOVE -

What's the meanest thing that the Football Association could do to a recession-ravaged Britain? Ah, yes, they could release yet another England shirt onto the market. We're not all earning Premier League wages you know, Lord Triesman. Anyway, for SG$150, you'd expect a lot more than an old tennis shirt with a badge the size of Wayne Rooney's head on it.

HEARTBREAK -

Peter Crouch could really do with another goal for England, but he was denied one by his captain at Wembley. With his second-half header zeroing in on the bottom corner, John Terry nipped in from an offside position to get the final touch. Not only did Crouch miss out, but Terry's 'goal' was chalked off for offside as well. Still, at least he apologised.

SPEEDY -

Aaron Lennon gave Marek Cech a torrid time in the first half but, and you may be surprised to hear this, his final ball wasn't quite good enough. It won't matter though. He caused Slovakia so many problems that Capello will almost certainly pick him again in midweek. At least he got his nerves out of the way before the important game.

PUNTER'S RANT -

I think its more of a fan's rant here. If you stayed up to watch a good, competitive game you will have been very disappointed. Assuming that you even managed to stay awake during the second half, that is. Slovakia were absolutely dreadful after the break, offering practically nothing to the fray. If you bet on them to win, then you really will have been shocked.

MAN OF THE MATCH -

Wayne Rooney rules the roost again, and it's a good job too. He might be England's only fit striker come Wednesday. With barely a hint of the histronics that marred his last outing for Manchester United, he was in fine fettle. This is how good he can be when he adds discipline to his already overloaded palatte of skills. Let's hope it stays that way.

MATCH STATS

Crowd - 85,512
Yellow Cards - Marek Sapara (Slovakia)
Red Cards - None
England -
David James (rating 7) (Ben Foster 6, 45th), Glen Johnson 7, Ashley Cole 7, Matthew Upson 7, John Terry 7, Gareth Barry 7, Frank Lampard 6, Aaron Lennon 7 (David Beckham 7, 45th), Wayne Rooney 9, Steven Gerrard 8 (Stewart Downing 6, 45th), Emile Heskey 6 (Carlton Cole 6, 15th) (Peter Crouch 6, 35th) (Michael Carrick 6, 74th)
Slovakia -
Stefan Senecky 6, Peter Pakarik 5, Martin Skrtel 4, Marek Cech 4 (Felipe Holosko 5, 45th), Jozef Valachovic 5, Radoslav Zabavnik 5, Miroslav Karhan 5 (Zdenko Strba 5, 83rd), Marek Hamsik 5 (Marek Mintal 5, 79th) , Jan Kozak 5 (Marek Sopara 5, 63rd), Robert Vittek 4 (Erik Jendrisek 5, 45th), Stanislav Sestak 5 (Martin Jakubko 72nd)
 
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