Rooney inspires England win in Sofia
Friday, 02 September, 2011
Victory over Bulgaria keeps England dreaming of place in Euro Finals.
by Stuart Mawhinney in Sofia
A 3-0 victory over Bulgaria in Sofia has put England in charge of proceedings at the top of their qualifying group for Euro 2012.
Gary Cahill opened the scoring on 13 minutes when he guided home Gareth Barry's clipped ball into the box.
Wayne Rooney headed a second from Stewart Downing's corner and the Manchester United forward sealed the win just before the break by tapping home at the far post after being found by club-mate Ashley Young.
Rooney's brace capped an impressive individual display, but to a man England were professional and they produced some fantastic football against an albeit disappointing Bulgarian side.
While one Manchester United defender won his first cap with Chris Smalling getting the nod at right back, it was the United pair of Rooney and Young who got the game underway with the smoke from a Bulgarian flare still casting a shadow over the players.
Smalling made an early opening for the visitors when he strode past Walcott and crossed to the far post, but Downing arrived moments to late to get on the end of the delivery.
Ashley Cole then popped up in the box and saw his left footed drive deflected wide for a corner as both full backs provided attacking support. From the resulting delivery Cahill showed great striker's instincts to chest down a pass from Barry and slot the ball home to give England an early lead.
It was another corner that led to England's second goal, this time from the right with Rooney the beneficiary of some hesitant Bulgarian defending to stab home from close range.
There were chances for Walcott and Downing as England countered with pace and poise, but a three goal lead at the interval was more than satisfactory for Capello's charges.
The second period began slowly, Bulgaria brought the physical Georgi Sarmov into the centre of midfield and saw an early set piece headed wide.
Ashley Young almost played Wayne Rooney in for his hat trick moments later, the final pass of a flowing move for England just catching a Bulgarian boot as Rooney's eyes glinted at another scoring chance.
From a Martin Petrov corner Joe Hart produced a wonderful point blank save to keep his goal in tact, a moment of hope for the home side in the face of England's dominance in the first period.
Downing then started and finished a move that only the width of the post could prevent the Liverpool midfielder scoring his first goal for his country and putting England four clear of Bulgaria. Downing evaded Milanov and picked out Walcott on the right wing, the Arsenal forward lofted a superb cross that Downing headed back across goal only to strike the post.
James Milner replaced Ashley Young after the hour mark, but the fluency remained, with Rooney leading the line expertly. Bulgaria enjoyed more of the ball in the second period, but they failed to properly test Hart again.
Indeed, bar a looping header from Rooney, chances were at a premium for the last half-hour, but England controlled the game for large portions and Capello will be pleased with the margin of victory and the clean sheet.
His side will now head back to Wembley where they will take on Wales on Tuesday, a game which could all but confirm their place in Poland & Ukraine.