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Page last updated at 20:24 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 21:24 UK

Belarus 1-3 England

By Phil McNulty

Wayne Rooney
Rooney has brilliantly rediscovered his scoring touch for England

Wayne Rooney scored twice as England took a giant stride towards World Cup qualification by beating Belarus to make it maximum points from four games.

Steven Gerrard gave England the lead from 30 yards after 11 minutes, but Pavel Sitko headed a deserved leveller for Belarus before the break.

Rooney turned in a cross from Emile Heskey five minutes after the break.

And he lifted home a superb third from Gerrard's pass 16 minutes from time to give coach Fabio Capello another win.


It gives England a perfect record of 12 points so far, with Capello's huge reputation bolstered further by two convincing away wins against dangerous opposition in Croatia and Belarus.

And for Gerrard, a spectacular strike will increase his fragile self-confidence in an England shirt and silence any lingering doubts about his worth at international level.

Rooney's double also demonstrated his growing maturity as he provided a deadly spearhead to the attack, ably assisted by the powerful Heskey, who was winning his 50th England cap.

The Manchester United striker has now scored five goals in England's last three qualifiers as he plays a leading role in the new Capello era.

Capello praises Rooney's versatility

Gerrard had pleaded with coach Capello to keep faith with him after a low-key display in the win against Kazakhstan - and he repaid his confidence with a stunning opener.

He picked up the ball from Rooney before placing a perfect slide-rule finish into the bottom corner beyond Belarus keeper Yury Zhevnov from fully 30 yards.

Instead of settling England, the goal was the signal for a period of Belarus dominance, with keeper David James having to save from Dmitry Molosh and Vitaly Kutuzov.

Heskey was working tirelessly up front to keep the Belarus defence occupied, and his fine cross set up Rooney for a far post header, but he could not find the target.

Belarus were in the ascendancy, however, and it was no surprise when they drew level after 28 minutes at the end of a glorious 23-pass move.

Igor Stasevich was the creator, popping up an inviting cross to the far post for Sitko to arrived unmarked and head beyond the exposed James.

England needed to apply more pressure to the gifted Belarus attacking players after the break, and Rooney almost provided the perfect start with a great run that was only marred by a tame finish.

He made no mistake as England regained the lead after 50 minutes, but credit must go to Heskey again with a powerful run and perfect cross for Rooney to slide home from close range.

As Belarus attempted to force their way back into contention, Capello made two changes to his attacking personnel, sending on Shaun Wright-Phillips for Theo Walcott and Peter Crouch for the excellent Heskey, who was struggling with an injury.

It did not stop Rooney taking the game by the scruff of the neck and he scored his second, and England's third, with a goal of the highest class 16 minutes from time.

Gerrard slid a superb instant pass into his path, and Rooney dummied a defender before lifting a composed finish over Zhevnov.

The Liverpool captain should have added a fourth five minutes from time when he rounded Zhevnov, but carelessly shot again the outside of the post with the goal at his mercy.

It was not a costly miss as England entered new territory by winning their opening four World Cup qualifiers for the first time.

Belarus: Zhevnov, Verkhovtsov, Filipenko, Omelyanchuk, Molosh, Kulchy, Sitko, Putsilo (Rodionov 67), Stasevich (Viacheslav Hleb 90), Kutuzov (Strakhanovich 77), Bulyga.
Subs Not Used: Veremko, Korytko, Pavlov, Sosnovskiy.

Booked: Putsilo.

Goals: Sitko 28.

England: James, Brown, Ferdinand, Upson, Bridge, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard, Walcott (Wright-Phillips 68), Rooney (Beckham 87), Heskey (Crouch 70).
Subs Not Used: Carson, Johnson, Lescott, Defoe.

Goals: Gerrard 11, Rooney 50, 74.

Att: 32,000.

Ref: Terje Hauge (Norway).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: England's Wayne Rooney 7.94 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
Capello hails second-half display
15 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Rooney comes of age
15 Oct 08 |  Football
World Cup qualifiers as they happened
15 Oct 08 |  Internationals
England pre-Capello was 'circus'
15 Oct 08 |  Internationals
International football photos
15 Oct 08 |  Internationals
From bullets in Baghdad to Belarus
14 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Capello's game of two halves
11 Oct 08 |  Internationals
England 5-1 Kazakhstan
11 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Pick your England XI
31 Aug 07 |  Internationals

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