England hit four past Slovakia
Saturday, 28 March, 2009
England cruise to a comfortable win over Slovakia at Wembley.
A 4-0 dismissal of Slovakia, courtesy of goals from Emile Heskey, Frank Lampard and a Wayne Rooney brace, proved ideal preparation for England’s forthcoming World Cup Qualifier against Ukraine which will take place on Wednesday night.
He may have been disappointed that his side weren’t able to win by a greater margin, but this result will have warmed Fabio Capello on a chilly March evening, which saw David Beckham set an outfield record of 109 England caps.
This ultimately proved a comfortable victory for The Three Lions, who were wearing the new England home kit for the first time. The only downside for Capello was injuries to Heskey, Carlton Cole and Peter Crouch which forced all three men to limp off.
The hosts controlled the opening 45 minutes, producing a number of incisive and penetrative passing moves, one of which led to Heskey’s opener after just seven minutes.
Rooney and Steven Gerrard interchanged well on the edge of the Slovakian area. After a neat one-two, Gerrard turned neatly, advanced to the by-line and found Heskey at the near post. Under pressure from Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel, the Villa front man did well to bundle the ball past Stefan Senecky in the Slovak goal.
Barely two minutes later, Heskey missed a glorious chance to double England’s lead. Once more finding space on the left flank, Rooney sent in a delicious cross to the far post, but the goalscorer headed over from barely five yards out.
Heskey’s afternoon was brought to an unfortunate conclusion after quarter of an hour when he was replaced by Cole, who himself limped off injured in the first half, to be replaced by Peter Crouch.
The visitors' first chance of the game was a volley from Stanislav Sestak following a good run and cross from Peter Pekarik.
Just before the half hour mark, Aaron Lennon, making his tenth appearance for England, scampered down the right wing and his centre was only half cleared by Skrtel. The ball fell invitingly for Lampard, but his volley was repelled by Senecky.
Lennon was once more involved in England’s next sight at goal. A sliding tackle from Lampard broke to the Tottenham man out wide, allowing him to take advantage of the space ahead. He stole into the box, only to see his cross parried by Senecky, who quickly recovered to palm away Gerrard’s headed rebound.
With England looking good for their one goal advantage, Slovakia reminded them how slender this lead actually was. The Slovakian skipper, Robert Vittak, was presented with a chance to equalise when the England defence engaged in some loose passing across their own area, but Vittak's shot was saved well by David James.
England’s temporary carelessness seemed to spark them into action again. As the half progressed, Lennon’s right flank carried the greater menace and it was from the right that Capello’s charges created their final opportunity of the half, though the Slovak stopper denied Gerrard once more.
Beckham was introduced after the interval for his 109th England appearance, whilst Stewart Downing and Ben Foster were also called upon by Capello.
Beckham’s first contribution was to curl a trademark free-kick into the box, but it zipped past the waiting posse.
Despite controlling proceedings for large portions of the game, England were still unable to give their fans the luxury of a second goal and Slovakian substitute, Erik Jendrisek, almost capitalised. After Glen Johnson had made an overlapping run, Jendrisek was played in on the left, but he shot into the side netting.
On 62 minutes England Captain, John Terry, had a goal ruled out following another Beckham free-kick but the 85,000 fans inside Wembley had to wait just eight minutes for that seemingly elusive second goal.
A cross-field ball from Gareth Barry found its way to Beckham, who calmly set-up an unmarked Rooney on the edge of the six yard box and the Manchester United forward did the rest, nodding beyond Senecky.
With the exception of the odd chance, the visitors offered little in the way of an attacking force and despite the three injuries, Capello will be pleased to have warmed up for the Ukraine Qualifier in such a comfortable manner.
England’s third goal came on 82 minutes. The newly-introduced Michael Carrick fed Lampard, bursting into the Slovakian box. The Chelsea midfielder surged beyond three defenders and found the corner of the net with a cool finish. This was England's 500th goal at Wembley Stadium.
Man of the Match, Rooney, sealed the victory in added time after being found by Lampard.
It’s Ukraine next for England and Capello will no doubt hope for a similar result.