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Page last updated at 20:48 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 21:48 UK

England 3-0 Belarus

By Phil McNulty
BBC Sport chief football writer at Wembley

Peter Crouch (right) celebrates after scoring
Crouch (right) has given Fabio Capello food for thought

England rounded off an impressive World Cup qualifying campaign with a comfortable victory over Belarus at Wembley.

Peter Crouch pressed home his claims for a place in the squad for South Africa by taking advantage of Wayne Rooney's absence to spearhead a new-look England attack and score twice.

He put England ahead in the fourth minute when he slid home a cross from Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor as Fabio Capello's side swiftly took control against a poor Belarus side.

Shaun Wright-Phillips, another member of Capello's undercard still with much to prove as the countdown to the World Cup continues, added the second after 59 minutes following a short corner from substitute David Beckham.

Interview - Fabio Capello

And Crouch rounded off a satisfactory night's work for an unfamiliar looking England side when he turned in the third after Belarus keeper Yury Zhevnov failed to hold an effort from substitute Carlton Cole.

As Capello's players took the plaudits from an excellent Wembley crowd of nearly 77,000 at the final whistle, England were able to reflect on a job well done after winning nine out of 10 qualifying matches, making light work of a potentially difficult group.

Capello will have learned little new from a low-key game with only pride and reputations riding on it, but he will have been delighted with how England adapted to the circumstances without key personnel such as Rooney and Steven Gerrard, albeit against sub-par opposition in Belarus.

With Rooney ruled out by a calf injury suffered against Ukraine, Capello took the opportunity to field a new-look strike force of Crouch and Agbonlahor.

And after Wright-Phillips had shot narrowly wide, they worked perfectly in tandem as England went ahead after only four minutes.

Agbonlahor was released by Gareth Barry's precise through ball, and he crossed for Crouch to bundle home from close range and continue his impressive strike rate for England with his 17th goal in 35 games.

PHIL McNULTY BLOG
Phil McNulty

The raw pace of Aston Villa striker Agbonlahor was causing Belarus problems, and he forced a fine save from goalkeeper Zhevnov after he left defenders trailing in his wake with another burst of speed.

Belarus were providing tame opposition for Capello's reshaped line-up, but they had a half-chance when Sergei Kornilenko was just off target from close range.

England goalkeeper Ben Foster, a late replacement for the injured David James, was virtually unemployed in the first half, although he was called into action to comfortably collect a routine free-kick from Sergei Omelyanchuk.

Wembley was in carnival mood, despite the mediocre fare on offer, and Frank Lampard almost gave the crowd something more to cheer three minutes after the interval with a 20-yard free-kick that Zhevnov turned over the bar.

The mere sight of Beckham warming up along Wembley's touchline had brought one of the biggest cheers of the night, and the crowd were delighted when the former England captain was introduced in place of Aaron Lennon after 57 minutes.

England have been exceptional - Beckham

And Beckham, almost inevitably, was involved as England extended their lead two minutes later. He worked a short corner to Wright-Phillips, whose shot squirmed beyond Zhevnov, who should have done far better.

Foster got the chance to distinguish himself after 63 minutes, and he did so with a fine one-handed save from Omelyanchuk.

Crouch snapped up his second and England's third with 16 minutes left when he pounced on another blunder by Zhevnov. He fumbled a shot from substitute Cole, on for Agbonlahor, and Crouch was on hand to slide home a simple opportunity.

Substitute James Milner almost applied the final flourish with a low shot that rebounded to safety off an upright, with Beckham also striking the outside of the post seconds later.

England's players did a lap of Wembley at the end - not in celebration but as a gesture of thanks for their loyal supporters - and Capello can now focus all his attentions on South Africa.


England: Foster, Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, Bridge (Milner 78), Lennon (Beckham 58), Lampard, Barry, Wright-Phillips, Crouch, Agbonlahor (Carlton Cole 66).
Subs Not Used: Hart, Upson, Ashley Cole, Carrick.

Goals: Crouch 4, Wright-Phillips 59, Crouch 76.

Belarus: Zhevnov, Kulchy, Yurevich, Sosnovskiy, Bordachev (Kashevsky 84), Verkhovtsov, Omelyanchuk, Shitov, Kalachev, Kornilenko (Kovel 77), Kutuzov (Rodionov 45).
Subs Not Used: Amelchenko, Lantsevich, Rudik, Krivets.

Booked: Kornilenko.

Att: 76,897

Ref: Lucilio Cardoso Cortez Batista (Portugal).



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see also
Wednesday's football as it happened
15 Oct 09 |  Football
International football photos
14 Oct 09 |  Football
Capello keeps pressure on England
14 Oct 09 |  Internationals
Beckham confirms Milan deal close
14 Oct 09 |  Europe
Who has qualified for South Africa 2010?
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Pick your England XI
31 Aug 07 |  Internationals


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
Yorkshire Evening Post Crouch gives Capello some food for thought - 52 mins ago
3 News Crouch nets 2 in England's 3-0 win over Belarus - 3 hrs ago
Times of Oman Crouch and Beckham make World Cup cases - 4 hrs ago
Yorkshire Post England 3 Belarus 0: Crouch double gives Capello nudge for World Cup selection - 5 hrs ago
Observer World Cup qualifier: England 3-0 Belarus - as it happened! | Barry Glendenning - 5 hrs ago


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