Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Switzerland 1 England 3: Wayne Rooney is up to his old tricks as Fabio Capello's men claim fine victory



By Matt Lawton in Basle

Perfect start: Wayne Rooney scores England's opener in Basel

Judging by his muted celebration in response to his first international goal for a year, the irony was not lost on Wayne Rooney, either.

Scoring away from home is something he has been vilified for these past few days and he was not about to demand the adoration of his public here at the St Jakob-Park stadium.

Instead he displayed the kind of professionalism Fabio Capello said he would, scoring the opening goal of another fine victory for England. A victory that not only continues the recovery process in the wake of the last World Cup but already puts Capello's side in a commanding position in their European Championship group.

Clearly, Rooney's reaction to the sight of his 10th minute shot hitting the back of the Switzerland net was also an acknowledgement of an injury that demanded Theo Walcott go straight to hospital.

Taking the plaudits: Rooney is congratulated by team-mates after scoring in Basel

Rooney simply did his job on this occasion, parking his personal hell to one side for the 78 minutes he was on the field and proving to his manager that he does indeed possess the mental fortitude to divide the professional from the personal.

Not everyone will see it that way. Some will inevitably accuse him of possessing a cold heart as well as a cold head. But just as he did against Bulgaria on Friday night, Rooney helped ensure that England performed with the fluency and finesse that was lacking in South Africa.

Doubling the lead: Adam Johnson rounds the keeper to score England's second goal

Beating a Swiss side that emerged from the World Cup alone in defeating Spain amounts to a fine achievement. Capello will be delighted with the result as well as the performance, even if he did lose Walcott and Jermain Defoe to injury and must now plan for Montenegro next month without the suspended James Milner.

For Capello it must have been particularly satisfying. He went into the first two matches of this campaign under enormous pressure. But the quality of England's football and the fresh injection of young talent would suggest he is capable of learning from the bitter disappointment of the summer and reviving this stuttering England side.

Three and easy: Darren Bent scores England's clinching third goal

Capello rated the opening 45 minutes here as the best in his time as England manager. Rooney and Defoe are indeed becoming England's 'chemical' brothers - it was Defoe's clever dummy that suddenly presented Rooney with the simplest of finishes - and in Adam Johnson Capello has another young winger more than capable of coping with the demands of the international game.

He followed his goal against Bulgaria with another one here to crown a superb individual display as Walcott's replacement.

Pain game: Walcott is carried off after injuring his ankle

There was a difficult spell in the second half, even after the Swiss suffered the loss of Stephan Lichtsteiner to two yellow cards. Having seen Johnson increase England's advantage, a thunderbolt from Xherdan Shaqiri dragged Ottmar Hitzfeld's side back into the game.

But then came another triumph for Capello - a first international goal, and a fine one at that, for Darren Bent.

Capello now has much to consider. How he accommodates Frank Lampard for a start. But potentially more tricky will be the question of whether Steven Gerrard remains as captain. He has been superb on and off the pitch this past week and the ball he delivered for Johnson's goal was simply exquisite.

Nasty: Stephan Lichsteiner was sent off for this foul on James Milner

Pride for England extended, on this occasion, to Manchester City, given that Capello started the game with four of their players and finished it with six. But the old Everton partnership of Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott also did well, given how hurriedly they were thrown together. In training the previous night Jagielka, Capello's new defensive 'marshal', had Gary Cahill standing alongside him.

For Rooney things were perfect. Having acknowledged the cheers of the England supporters when he emerged for the pre-match warm-up, he then repaid them further with his goal. Walcott played the ball in to Glen Johnson, who beat Reto Ziegler before delivering a cross that Defoe stepped over, leaving Rooney to do the rest.

This is how I want you to do it: Fabio Capello was in animated form during England's clash with Switzerland

Walcott suffered his ankle injury thanks to a poor challenge by Steve von Bergen, but Adam Johnson was the ideal replacement and England continued to dominate. The former Middlesbrough winger proved a handful with his jinking runs and shooting, while Milner and Glen Johnson also went close.

Defoe threatened before the break with a shot that Diego Benaglio parried, but the departure of Licht-steiner for a 65th minute foul on Milner brought more opportunities for England.

Within four minutes Johnson had struck, thanks to the combined brilliance of Rooney and Gerrard and a fine finish, having first skipped past Benaglio.

That happened while Defoe was lying on the ground nursing an ankle injury, but when Shaqiri then beat Joe Hart with a super left-foot strike there were anxious moments for England. Hart looked a little nervous for once, his handling uncharacteristically poor in the wet.

The failure of Shaun Wright-Phillips to ease the pressure when he had only Benaglio to beat succeeded only in exposing the folly of choosing him ahead of Walcott for the World Cup. The ball Wright-Phillips chose to deliver - a pass for Bent that was intercepted - added to the sense of anxiety.

Until, that is, Ashley Cole delivered the ball in to the feet of Bent and the Sunderland striker produced a calm finish. Rooney might not have smiled but Capello most certainly did.

source: dailymail


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