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Page last updated at 20:50 GMT, Friday, 3 September 2010 21:50 UK

England 4-0 Bulgaria

England striker Jermain Defoe
Hat-trick hero Defoe celebrates scoring England's opener

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer, at Wembley

Jermain Defoe struck a hat-trick as England started the road to recovery after the bitter disappointment of World Cup failure with victory against Bulgaria in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier at Wembley.

England manager Fabio Capello has been under increasing pressure in the aftermath of the flawed South African campaign - so the emphatic manner and margin of the win will come as a huge relief to the 64-year-old Italian.

Defoe established the foundations with an early goal and added a second just after the hour as the home side eventually overran the Bulgarians.

Manchester City's Adam Johnson, on as a substitute for Theo Walcott, ended any slim hopes of a Bulgarian revival with England's third and his first for his country before Defoe completed his treble with a powerful drive four minutes from time.

England's win may have come at a cost however, with Tottenham defender Michael Dawson stretchered off with what looked like a serious injury after slipping as he made a challenge early in the second half.

Defoe also limped off after picking up an injury as he scored his third goal, but Capello expects him to recover in time for Tuesday's game in Switzerland.

The home side suffered the occasional anxious moment, but goalkeeper Joe Hart was flawless when called upon as he continued his impressive graduation to the international stage with some crucial saves.

And there was another plus as Wayne Rooney was a central figure in England's goals, despite occasionally appearing to be out of favour with the home support.

As Capello's men started their rehabilitation after the dismal World Cup exit in the last 16 against Germany in Bloemfontein, a bright start was essential to ease any concerns among the Wembley crowd - and it was duly delivered.

Phil McNulty blog

Rooney's wonderful pass played in Ashley Cole, and when he pulled a cross into the six-yard box Defoe volleyed expertly high beyond the reach of Bulgaria keeper Nikolay Mihaylov.

Steven Gerrard was relishing his central midfield role, dictating the tempo and showing his full range of passing in an encouraging England opening, but Bulgaria were almost handed a route back into the game from the unlikeliest of sources.

Glen Johnson appeared lost in confusion as he attempted to deal with a cross, succeeding only in turning the ball towards his own goal and bringing an instinctive save from the alert Hart.

Rooney had occasionally felt the impatience of the 73,246 at Wembley, but he demonstrated his enduring quality with a 20-yard chip four minutes after the interval that forced Mihaylov into a scrambling save to turn his effort over the top.

Ivelin Popov then posed a threat for England as he flashed a shot across the face of goal before England were forced into a defensive reshuffle following Dawson's unfortunate departure, with Bolton's Gary Cahill coming on for his international debut.

And two decisive moments just after the hour saw the balance of the game swing decisively in England's favour. Hart did well to block a powerful drive from Stanislav Angelov, giving England the opportunity to sweep forward on the counter attack as Gerrard and Rooney combined to set up Defoe for another clinical finish.

Hart had distinguished himself as he confirmed his status as Capello's first-choice keeper, and he came to the rescue again with a fine one-handed stop from Dimitar Rangelov just as he seemed poised to pull a goal back for Bulgaria.

Walcott had been a peripheral figure, and he was replaced by Johnson as the clock ticked down towards an England victory.

Gerrard almost gave the scoreline a more convincing appearance when Mihaylov dived low to save his shot, and then recovered well to claw away with loose ball as Defoe closed in on a hat-trick, but England were not kept at bay for long.

Johnson had proved a lively introduction for England and he was on the scoresheet for the first time at full international level with a low drive that left question marks over the positioning of Bulgaria keeper Mihaylov.

It was left to Defoe to round off England's triumph as he took advantage of more good work by Rooney to lash a finish past Mihaylov - although he picked up a knock in the process and limped off.

Switzerland will provide a sterner test in Basle on Tuesday, but Capello and England will regard this as the perfect tonic after the trauma of South Africa.

England: Hart, Glen Johnson, Jagielka, Dawson (Cahill 56), Ashley Cole, Walcott (Adam Johnson 74), Gerrard, Barry, Milner, Defoe (Young 87), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Foster, Gibbs, Carrick, Bent.

Goals: Defoe 3, 61, Adam Johnson 83, Defoe 86.

Bulgaria: Mihailov, Ivanov, Milanov, Manolev (Minev 66), Iliyan Stoyanov, Yankov, Angelov, Stiliyan Petrov, Martin Petrov, Bojinov (Rangelov 63), Popov (Peev 79).
Subs Not Used: Vladislav Stoyanov, Kamburov, Domovchiyski, Genchev.

Booked: Popov.

Att: 73,246.

Ref: Viktor Kassai (Hungary).

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Euro 2012 qualifying results

3 Sep 2010 23:59 UK

  • Andorra0-2Russia
  • Armenia0-1Rep of Ireland
  • Belgium0-1Germany
  • England4-0Bulgaria
  • Estonia1-2Italy
  • Faroe Islands0-3Serbia
  • France0-1Belarus
  • Greece1-1Georgia
  • Iceland1-2Norway
  • Kazakhstan0-3Turkey
  • Latvia0-3Croatia
  • Liechtenstein0-4Spain
  • Lithuania0-0Scotland
  • Luxembourg0-3Bosnia-H
  • Moldova2-0Finland
  • Montenegro1-0Wales
  • Portugal4-4Cyprus
  • Romania1-1Albania
  • San Marino0-5Netherlands
  • Slovakia1-0FYR Macedonia
  • Slovenia0-1Northern Ireland
  • Sweden2-0Hungary

see also
Dawson facing spell on sidelines
04 Sep 10 |  Football
Early goal was key to win - Gerrard
04 Sep 10 |  Football
Euro 2012 qualifiers as they happened
03 Sep 10 |  Football
International football photos
03 Sep 10 |  Football
Portugal U21 0-1 England U21
03 Sep 10 |  Internationals

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