The Three Lions continued their good start to World Cup qualification with a comfortable win in Minsk.
Belarus 1-3 England
2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
7.30pm, Wednesday 15 October 2008
Dinamo Stadium, Minsk
Live on Setanta
England delivered win number four, their best ever start to a World Cup qualifying campaign, and gave a performance of composure and spirit to take the three points from Minsk.
A stunning effort from Steven Gerrard and two goals of real quality from Wayne Rooney gave the Three Lions a crucial win that sees them top Group Six by five points.
Fabio Capello made one enforced change from the side that started against Kazakhstan, with Wayne Bridge replacing his Chelsea team-mate Ashley Cole who didn't travel due to a hamstring injury.
Ten minutes into the game and Wayne Rooney was calling for a penalty after seemingly being pulled back in the box. Coming at the end of a fine move involving Lampard and Gerrard, Rooney narrowly missed out on a teasing Theo Walcott cross.
It would not matter, as within minutes England were ahead through a terrific strike from Gerrard. Rooney plucked the ball out of the sky and avoided both the Belarussian central defenders before stepping aside to let Gerrard place the ball in the bottom corner from 30 yards.
The home side made a spirited response to the early goal and David James was called into action on three occasions and had to show a commanding presence to deal with the attacking threat.
Prior to the game, Belarus were compared with Arsenal in their intricate passing fluid style of play, and in the opening half hour the comparison seemed entirely apt.
No better example than the equalising goal could be called upon to show the similarities in technique as Bernd Stange's players showed poise and precision in their build-up play to unlock the English defence and level the scores.
After a fine passing move, Igor Stasevich provided the cross and Pavel Sitko headed home from point blank range.
England had expected such a display from the home side and showed composure to regain their footing in a frantic first period.
The tireless Heskey found Rooney at the far post but the Manchester United forward headed just wide. Then Lampard went close with an indirect free-kick.
Walcott had two glorious openings as the half-time interval approached. First he found space in the box from a clever Rooney pass, then he went clean through only to find the Yuri Zhevnov's hands rather than the bottom corner.
England went into the break in strong fashion and came out equally as confident with Rooney almost scoring a Gazza-esque goal two minutes after the interval.
Showing all his natural attacking instincts, he ghosted past the last two defenders, but could not find the finish to match his build-up.
Three minutes later and Rooney was on the scoresheet for a third successive time in an England shirt, tapping in after a superb run from Heskey.
Winning his 50th cap and putting in another vibrant and energetic display, Heskey showed all his strength and power to slide down the left flank and present Rooney with a chance he could not miss.
Shaun Wright-Phillips came on for Walcott and Peter Crouch replaced Heskey as the game headed towards the final 15 minutes.
The switch saw England score their third goal as Crouch won the flick before Rooney and Gerrard combined with terrific timing to create another superb goal for the visitors.
Gerrard found Rooney with a perfectly weighted through pass, and showing coolness under pressure the United forward lifted the ball over the 'keeper to give England a vital cushion.
It could have been four too, as Gerrard picked up a loose ball to break past the last defender and then round Zhevnov only to see his final angled shot hit the post and bounce to safety.
That proved to be the last of the chances and after four minutes of stoppage time, the referee sounded the final whistle to make it a fine start to qualification for Fabio Capello's men.Teams
12 Yuri Zhevnov, 2 Aleksandr Kulchy, 3 Egor Filipenko, 4 Sergei Omelyanchyuk, 5 Dmitry Molosh, 7 Vitaly Bulyga, 10 Pavel Sitko, 13 Vitaly Kutuzov, 14 Anton Putilo (11 Vitaly Rodionov, 67), 16 Igor Stasevich (9 Vyacheslav Hleb, 90), 18 Dzmitry VerkhovtsovSubs not used
Anton Amelchenko, Sergei Veremko, Vladimir Korytko, Andrei Chukhlei, Sergei Sosnovsky, Aleksandr Hleb, Oleg Strakhanovich, Aleksandr Pavlov, Alexei Skvernyuk
1 David James, 2 Wes Brown, 3 Wayne Bridge, 4 Steven Gerrard, 5 Rio Ferdinand, 6 Matthew Upson, 7 Theo Walcott (16 Shaun Wright-Phillips, 68), 8 Frank Lampard, 9 Emile Heskey (18 Peter Crouch, 70), 10 Wayne Rooney (15 David Beckham, 88), 11 Gareth BarrySubs not used
12 Scott Carson, 13 Glen Johnson, 14 Joleon Lescott, 17 Jermain DefoeGoals
Gerrard 11, Rooney 50, 74Manager
Terje Hauge (Norway)Assistant Referees
Geir Age Holen, Jan Petter Randen (Both Norway)