Four-goal salvo sinks Irish
By Mark Kendall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Four goals in 16 second half minutes handed England victory over Northern Ireland.England ran out comfortable 4-0 winners over Northern Ireland as a second-half goal blitz undid Lawrie Sanchez's battlers at Old Trafford.
The visitors were harbouring hopes of a shock point after heading in level at the interval, but their hard work was undone by four goals in 16 minutes straight after the break, and in truth England should have run out even more convincing winners.
After the impressive Joe Cole had broken the deadlock, Michael Owen got in on the act before a Chris Baird own-goal and a deflected Frank Lampard drive completed the scoring.
The result never appeared to be in much doubt with the extent of Northern Ireland's ambition to try and fend off wave after wave of England attacks, but it was a task the green shirts carried out manfully for the first 45 minutes.
The tone was set by a dominant John Terry header from David Beckham's sixth minute corner, the Chelsea defender just failing to keep his effort down after rising powerfully between two markers.
The hosts really should have hit the front on 17 minutes when Lampard slid in Owen with a fine ball. The Real Madrid star raced clear and had time to steady himself but placed his effort too close to Maik Taylor who gathered well low to his left.
Owen's strike-partner Wayne Rooney came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock three minutes later; Gary Neville's cross was fractionally behind the teenager but he superbly generated power on his header and was left frustrated as the ball crept beyond Taylor's dive but on to the post.
Rooney threatened again shortly afterwards, lying deep he cleverly exchanged passes with Joe Cole and flashed in a drive from 25 yards that Taylor tipped over at full stretch.
However, as the half wore on England increasingly neglected the flanks and found their route to goal blocked by the massed ranks of green shirts populating the central areas.
Indeed, the hosts' next chance of note came via a set-piece with David Beckham seeing a trademark curling free kick comfortably pushed around for a corner.
The growing frustration seemed to manifest itself in Rooney who was fortunate to see an ugly two-footed lunge ignored by German official Wolfgang Stark in the build-up to an attack which culminated in a Lampard strike being well saved.
But the half-time break proved to do England more favours than the visitors whose brave resistance was ended just 61 seconds into the second period.
It took a defensive mistake to undermine their efforts, Tony Capaldi - under pressure from Beckham - played an ill-advised ball across the box that was pounced on by Joe Cole who stroked the ball into the corner from 18 yards much to the relief of the majority of Old Trafford.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Lawrie's Sanchez's side who surrendered two more in quick succession.
A smart interchange between Rooney and Lampard on the edge of the box saw the Chelsea man knock into the path of Owen who expertly flicked home over Taylor with the outside of his boot from close range.
Rooney's impudence the created a third, the Manchester United star bamboozled Colin Murdock on the right touchline and, having powered his way in behind the Crewe stopper, he drilled across a centre that was deflected into his own net by Southampton's Chris Baird.
Another deflection off an Irish defender saw England add a fourth to complete a devastating 16-minute spell. This time it was Lampard who benefited, his 25-yard effort being cruelly taken beyond Taylor courtesy of an inadvertent touch from the head of Murdock.
Lampard should have added a fifth that owed nothing to fortune, but somehow contrived to blast the ball against the bar from ten yards after fine build-up play from Rooney and substitute Kieron Dyer had cut the visitors open down the right.
With the game well won England seemed content to conserve their efforts for Wednesday's encounter with Azerbaijan and they will now be confident of completing a six-point haul that should go a long way to ensuring World Cup qualification.
|England||Team Statistics||Northern Ireland|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|9||Shots on Target||1|
|13||Shots off Target||1|