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England 5 Croatia 1 – match report

September 10th, 2009 by · No Comments · Features, Football

From the start England play was defined by hard work and closing down the opposition. After just 7 minutes that effort saw results with Aaron Lennon running across Josip Suminic’s clumsy challenge. Despite recent penalty controversy there was no other decision for the referee to make. The penalty was converted coolly by Lampard, that’s 4 goals from 7 games.

Croatia continued to try and play, pressing forward with numbers whenever they could. The truth though was that the goal had given England a confidence to play the ball and that suited them. They would not be truly tested until late in the game.

Lennon continued to be the major threat although Rooney and Heskey were doing sterling work further forward. Rooney’s pressing and passing in particular was bringing Gerrard into the game more often that we are used to. This effort, plus tireless closing down from Heskey, kept the ball in the Croatia half for most of the first 45 minutes and allowed England to dictate the pace and shape of the game. What a contrast to the game against Spain when the midfield was simply outclassed.

As things settled down Barry shot well from outside the box producing an amazing save well outside his 6-yard box by Vedran Runje. 5 minutes later Gerrard found Lennon very wide and a great deep cross from Lennon found Gerrard flying in unmarked at the back post. 18 minutes, 2-0.

For the rest of the half England threatened to score more. Terry should have scored with an unopposed header. Lennon could have had another on 35 minutes and Heskey was clean through twice just before half time but lacked the confidence to beat the keeper. To cap it all Lampard also blasted over in front of goal.

In the press box there was nervous talk of complacency spoiling the great start. That’s almost exactly what happened 5 minutes after the restart. England switched off at a corner and Croatia should have scored. 5 minutes later Johnson used Eduardo as a climbing frame but, for some reason, the referee decided it was in the rules. Capello was going mad on the touchlines.

Johnson redeemed himself on 59 minutes with a drive down the wing and a cute cutback to find Lampard leaping to score a well-aimed header. Business was back to normal for the rest of the game. 6 minutes later Rooney replayed the move with, this time, Gerrard on the end of things as he stormed into the box late and unmarked. Another header, another goal!

With less than 20 minutes to go Johnson showed his lack of defensive calm letting in a cross without challenge and the ensuing scramble allowed Eduardo to score from close range. Capello was not impressed with the play nor the fan who invaded the pitch. The whole thing was turning bizarre and to cap it all the Croatian goalkeeper, under no pressure, sliced a clearance straight to Rooney who shot home from just inside the area. Job done.

All that was left was the post match interviews and the desperate attempts to avoid the curse of anyone being the first to say ‘we can win this’. It didn’t take long.

World Cup European Qualifying Group 6

England 5

• Lampard (pen) 7,

• Gerrard 18,

• Lampard 59,

• Gerrard 66,

• Rooney 77

Croatia 1

• Eduardo 71

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