Steve Saved McClarense Ass! AND – ENG 0-3
Posted March 28, 2007on:
England failed to convince once more but an improved second-half performance saw Steven Gerrard score twice in a 3-0 win over Andorra.
It had not been so much Mack the Knife as Knife the Mac this week following a disappointing performance in Israel on Saturday and this result is unlikely to spare Steve McClaren the critics.
A poor first-half performance against the Pyrenean minnows does not reduce England’s mounting problems to mere molehills.
As the cliche goes ‘there are no easy games in international football’ but this ought to have been one. At half-time it was not and, having been booed off at half-time, Gerrard’s brace and a debut goal for David Nugent was the very minimum expectation.
There was a Vieira in midfield and an Ayala in defence but Andorra, 157 places below England in the world rankings, were under no illusions that they could match their opponents in a fair fight so the match took a spiteful form.
Micah Richards was the victim of a high challenge and Gerrard took retribution with a wild challenge on Jordi Escura.
Oscar Sonejee was quick to start a war of words to test the combustible Wayne Rooney, and Jordi Ruiz caught Owen Hargreaves with what appeared a not altogether accidental elbow.
Amid the high boots and fists, the only shot of note had come from Gerrard’s swerving effort which was saved awkwardly by Jesus Alvarez.
Andrew Johnson turned and shot twice, while Stewart Downing volleyed over from Richards’s cross but the burden of expectation weighed heavy and a poor, almost fearful, England left the field to violent jeers and the less than sympathetic faces of supporters.
The team and their support began the second half in better heart, however, and, after Hargreaves dragged a shot wide, England began to rain the shots in like they should have done from almost the first whistle.
Rooney continued to betray his lack of confidence in the white of England with a cross-shot that pulled wide but, after knocking at the door with greater conviction, the deadlock was broken in the 54th minute.
Aaron Lennon’s cross was only half-cleared and Rooney teed up Gerrard to strike powerfully into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Rooney and Sonejee predictably found themselves into the referee’s notebook – the caution means the Manchester United man will miss England’s next qualifier against Estonia.
Fearing that Rooney may even find himself sent off, McClaren withdrew the player, despite his still not having claimed a competitive England goal since Euro 2004, for Jermain Defoe.
Richards also left the field, but on a stretcher, with the injured star replaced by Kieron Dyer. Dyer should have added to the scoreline within seconds of his introduction but sliced wide after fine work from Lennon down the right.
Gerrard, the game’s inevitable matchwinner, began and finished the move which led to England’s second goal 14 minutes from time. Driving forward from midfield and linking with Downing and Defoe, Gerrard then slid a finish into the back of the net.
Andorra’s reaction was predictably cynical but England, with David Nugent now on for his debut, exuded positive threat and could have added a third goal through Gerrard’s long-range dipping effort.
The last word was Nugent’s. After missing an earlier opportunity, the Preston striker snatched a debut goal from right on the line after Defoe’s shot had squeezed past Alvarez.
Posted by Denis S – Written by Chris Stanton – SkySports.com