Wayne Rooney scored his first goal in a competitive international in over three years as England warmed up for their crunch UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier in Russia by beating Estonia 3-0 at Wembley. It was Steve McClaren squad's fifth successive 3-0 win in group E, but that run will count for little if they are defeated by Russia in Moscow on Wednesday.
|England's Wayne Rooney (C) celebrates scoring a goal against Estonia with Michael Owen (L) and Sol Campbell (R) (Photo: AFP)|
This contest was over by half-time, an early strike by Shaun Wright-Phillips being followed by Rooney's 13th goal for his country - his first outside of friendlies since EURO 2004 - and an own goal by Estonia's holding midfielder Taavi Rahn.
McClaren had resolved his major selection dilemma by opting to leave Frank Lampard on the bench in order to continue with the midfield quartet that had performed so effectively in last month's wins over Israel and Russia. That decision was vindicated by a man-of-the-match display by Gareth Barry in the holding role, although the limitations of Estonia ensured this was a far from exacting test of the Aston Villa captain's credentials.
Barry was involved in the build-up to England's first goal, although the 11th-minute opener was primarily the product of the increasingly productive understanding between Wright-Phillips and Micah Richards, who collected a lay-off from the Chelsea winger and then played a deft little ball into the box through the inside right channel. The Chelsea winger was able to squeeze in between Dmitri Kruglov and Rahn and unleash a low shot from the corner of the six-yard box that made its way through the legs of Estonia goalkeeper Mart Poom.
That set the tone for what was to be an unhappy afternoon for Poom. The Watford goalkeeper was relieved to see Rooney's attempted chip shave the top of the bar as he back-pedalled, but he could not be faulted as cruel deflections helped England kill off the contest with two goals in as many minutes.
First Joe Cole's cross was allowed to trundle across the Estonian penalty area to an unmarked Rooney, whose left-foot shot on the turn found the bottom corner via the boot of Raio Piiroja. Poom was equally powerless two minutes later when Rahn, attempting to intercept Ashley Cole's cross from a deep position on the left, managed to send an unstoppable header into the net via the inside of the post.
England's comfortable advantage enabled McClaren to rest Rio Ferdinand for the second half and hand Joleon Lescott his first cap.
As his thoughts turned towards Wednesday night's assignment in Moscow, McClaren will have been concerned by the sight of Paul Robinson fumbling a Ragnar Klavan shot from distance, although the The Tottenham Hotspur keeper redeemed himself by positioning himself impeccably to keep out Joel Lindpere's fiercely struck drive from just outside the area.
Steven Gerrard chose to pass when a shot seemed the better option in the latter stages and Rooney volleyed over after fine work from Barry, but ultimately the match finished 3-0 in England's favour. Having put another three points on the board, the Three Lions will now travel to Russia in confident mood.