England don't like first-halfs. Once again it took Sven's reassurances during th
England don't like first-halfs. Once again it took Sven's reassurances during the interval for his team to find their rhythm but, despite a goalless first forty five minutes, the result of this penultimate EURO 2004 qualifier never really looked in doubt.
Sven made a statement of his intent by fielding a three-pronged attack of Beattie, Rooney and Owen and, though Frick did threaten for the visitors as early as the first minute, it was all England.
James Beattie thundered a left-foot rocket against the bar and Michael Owen uncharacteristically missed his kick when presented with an open goal following a fumble by Jehle, but it was England's other forward who seemed to pose the greatest threat.
Playing just behind the front two, Wayne Rooney was in his element. With his jinking runs and insightful passing, the 17-year-old Evertonian was playing with the canny subtlety of a veteran, unbecoming of the youngest player on the pitch.
Having opened his goalscoring account for England in Macedonia on Saturday, Rooney has been a different person around the camp over the last few days and his new-found confidence was there for all to see. It seemed only a matter of time before the breakthrough came and once again Sven's team-talk proved the catalyst for an upturn in fortunes.
Within a minute of the restart we were ahead with a goal that owed everything to the Anfield connection. Steven Gerrard whipped in a delightful cross from the right and Owen swooped to head his 16th goal in 28 starts under Sven.
They may be slow starters but this England team also know when they're on top. Relaxed by the opener, they doubled their lead on 52 minutes with a classic strike.
Owen drove the ball out wide to Beckham who picked out Gerrard's run to the far post. He laid a perfect header into Wayne Rooney's path and England's new number nine swept the ball home with power and accuracy. The roar from crowd was almost as thunderous as the finish.
After Wayne's first-ever England goal against Macedonia, skipper David Beckham arranged for a photo of the strike to be signed by every member of the squad and presented to him after this game. It was a touching gesture and an example of Beckham's sensitive style of leadership, but Rooney is clearly not one to rest on his laurels.
What are the odds of both he and Owen breaking Sir Bobby Charlton's goalscoring record for England?
Senol Gunes' presence in the crowd was an indication of the greater challenges that lie ahead for England. With an eye on that crucial match next month, Sven withdrew the precious Beckham and Gerrard on 55 minutes.
Beckham got a standing ovation as he departed the field. It was recognition of both his performance on the night and of the 15 years service he gave at Old Trafford.
Both Beattie and Joe Cole might have added to the scoring but perhaps it's best that England save their goals for Istanbul.
This match saw Sven break the post-war record for successive victories, registering his eighth win in a row. He'd happily see that winning run end in Turkey...as long as we stay unbeaten.
From Dan Freedman at Old Trafford
England: James, G Neville, Bridge, Gerrard (P Neville, 55), Terry, Upson, Beckham (Hargreaves, 55), Lampard, Rooney (J Cole, 69), Owen, Beattie
Subs not used: Robinson, Campbell, Dyer, Heskey
Liechtenstein: Jehle; Telser, Michael Stocklasa (Maierhofer, 45), Hasler, Ritter, Martin Stocklasa, R Beck (T Beck, 55), Gerster, D'Elia (Buchel, 71), Frick, Burgmeier
Subs not used: Hebb, Ospelt, M Beck, Vogt
Bookings: Martin Stocklasa (20), Jehle (27), Bridge (56)
Referee: Knud Erik Fisker
Assistant Referees: Bill Rene Hansen & Jorgen Jepsen
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