Barry helps to calm England's early nerves and sloppiness to nod in the opener
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Almaty, Kazakhstan
England will return from the arduous 7,000-mile round trip to Kazakhstan a step closer to World Cup qualification - but only after a brief encounter with embarrassment in Almaty.
Coach Fabio Capello maintained his flawless record on the road to South Africa with a sixth successive victory in Group Six after a journey to Europe's eastern extremity and a meeting with one of world game's genuine minnows.
The gulf in these contrasting football cultures was not immediately obvious as England, against opponents fuelled by fanatical Kazakh support, almost suffered the indignity of falling behind before eventually exerting their authority and claiming the expected victory.
England captain John Terry needed to produce a crucial block inside the first 20 seconds to halt Sergey Ostapenko before the striker then saw a header ruled out for offside with the scoresheet still blank.
A linesman's flag silenced wild celebrations inside Almaty's Central Stadium - and also signalled the height of England's troubles as they restored order and Kazakhstan, as is their habit, ran out of steam.
Gareth Barry crowned an eventful week following his £12m move from Aston Villa to Manchester City by heading in his first competitive goal for England from Steven Gerrard's cross five minutes before the interval.
And as Kazakhstan tried to recover from this setback, Emile Heskey delivered his first competitive England strike in seven years in first-half stoppage time to effectively confirm the victory.
Gerrard, England's outstanding player, again played a key role with an ambitious long-range shot that caught Kazakh keeper Alexandr Mokin out of position. He could only claw the ball to Heskey, who completed the formalities.
Wayne Rooney, a subdued figure for the most part here, demonstrated his class with a stunning overhead kick 18 minutes from time. And Frank Lampard's penalty gave the scoreline a convincing appearance with a 78th minute penalty after Heskey has been hauled down by Renat Abdulin.
England's eventual victory margin had a ring of comfort, but this hot night in Eurasia was not without its early moments of unease.
Capello declared his satisfaction as he chalked off another game and another victory in his campaign to take England to the World Cup - but he will have surely been concerned by the slipshod start that offered encouragement to Kazakhstan and their fiercely partisan support in the opening exchanges.
He insisted England could not offer up the rigours of a trip to a country that lies only 200 miles from the Chinese border as an excuse for any flaws - so Capello is unlikely to mark down a leaden-footed start to jetlag.
And while England may have flexed their muscles to take a two-goal lead at the interval, it was lavish reward for an opening 45 minutes lacking in order and composure.
The Central Stadium, which resounded to the insistent beat of drummers as Kazakhstan made the brightest of starts, offered up a dated but atmospheric setting for the longest journey England will face en route to what they hope will be successful qualification for South Africa 2010.
Kazakhstan are traditionally quick starters at home, so it was with some concern that England appeared to be caught by surprise as they flew out of the blocks.
They were a step ahead of the sluggish visitors as the early blows were traded, and only Terry's bravery prevented Ostapenko from giving Kazakhstan almost from the kick-off in a grim echo of England's San Marino moment in 1993 when David Gualtieri scored inside nine seconds.
England's early frustrations were underscored when Barry was booked for hauling back Zhambyl Kukeyev, a yellow card that rules him out of Wednesday's next qualifier against Andorra at Wembley.
And it was a linesman's intervention that spared England after 17 minutes when Ostapenko headed in Kukeyev's free-kick. It sent the Central Stadium wild with a mixture of ecstasy and disbelief before it became clear, to all Almaty's obvious despair, that the goal had been correctly ruled out for offside.
Wayne Rooney reacts brilliantly to stick in England's third goal
It proved to be the dangerous Ostapenko's last meaningful contribution as he collapsed after a challenge and was stretchered off.
England finally gave Kazakhstan something to think about as the half-hour approached, when Heskey's shot was touched on to the post and away to safety by Kazakh keep Mokin.
The relief in England's camp was as obvious as their delight when they took the lead after 40 minutes, Barry heading in Gerrard's cross at the far post after a short corner.
Predictably, the goal was a defining moment as Kazakhstan's reserves of energy visibly slipped away. England inflicted further punishment in the dying seconds of the half, courtesy of Heskey's simple finish after Mokin failed miserably to deal with Gerrard's speculative angled effort.
Kazakhstan's early impetus, which had given England problems, had disappeared by the time Rooney wrapped up the win with wonderful piece of improvisation, scoring with a bicycle kick after his first effort had been blocked by Mokin.
It was merely a case of damage limitation and maintaining respectability for Kazakhstan in the remaining minutes, although Lampard added England's fourth from the spot after Heskey was dragged back in the act of shooting by Abdulin.
The Kazakhstan fans had created a wonderful atmosphere with their unswerving support of their own team and an obvious appreciation and excitement at being in close proximity to England's Premier League superstars.
And it was almost as a means of reward that Capello added another to David Beckham's growing collection of cameo England caps with a 15-minute appearance as substitute.
Capello declared this as very much a case of job done for England at the end of a tough trek east - and while the result may have yielded nothing for Kazakhstan, this whole week has been a rewarding experience for this country and an important staging post in their development as a football nation.
Meanwhile, second-placed Croatia missed the chance to close the gap on England when they drew 2-2 at home to Ukraine in Zagreb.
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