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Capello relieved as England edge closer to SAfrica

SoccerNews in English Premier League, World Cup 7 Jun 2009

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Fabio Capello has paid tribute to his England players for the way in which they put a stuttering start behind them to maintain their 100 percent World Cup qualifying record with a 4-0 win over Kazakhstan.

Capello was alarmed by the extent to which the Kazakhs had unsettled his side in the opening half hour, with striker Sergey Ostapenko wasting one clear chance and then having a second effort chalked off for offside.

But the Italian declared himself satisfied with the way they killed off the match with goals from Gareth Barry and Emile Heskey in the closing minutes of the first half before Wayne Rooney’s eighth in his last six internationals and a late Frank Lampard penalty gave the score a flattering edge.

A win over tiny Andorra at Wembley on Wednesday would leave England with seven wins out of seven in group six and, from that position, it would be a major surprise if they did not go on to top the group and book their place in South Africa.

“I was disappointed with the position on the pitch of some players,” Capello said of the tricky first half hour. “But in the end I’m very happy. We knew they would press us at the start and we were prepared for it.

“Against a team not at your level it is always important to score the first goal and then their level goes down.

“They scored a goal that was offside but there were no other problems for our goalkeeper and that was very important.”

Capello confirmed that his half-time substitution of Theo Walcott, who made way for Shaun Wright-Phillips, had been a tactical rather than an injury-forced change.

Capello will have to make some changes on Wednesday as Gareth Barry, who picked up a booking here, will be suspended, which could mean David Beckham winning his 112th cap in a rare starting role.

“A win against Andorra would be another big step forward,” Capello said. “If we win we will have 21 points and it’s a lot.”

England skipper John Terry admitted Kazakhstan had made life difficult initially.

“It is a massive win on the way to where we want to be,” the Chelsea centreback said. “It really is a big win.

“We it was going to be difficult for 40-50 minutes and then they would tire.

“Six wins out of six is fantastic but we’re not there yet, we’re in a good position, but taking nothing for granted. We’ve got Andorra at home, and they can sit back and make it difficult. But if we can get the seventh win out of seven, it will be fantastic.”

Capello had warned his players that he would not accept the draining effects of an eight-hour flight and a five-hour time difference as excuses for anything less than a totally focused performance.

It was not an instruction that Glen Johnson appeared to have absorbed as his dithering allowed Zhambyl Kukeyev to tee up Ostapenko with a low cross that the Kazakh’s star striker really should have buried after barely 30 seconds.

England had another let off in the 17th minute, when Ostapenko headed in Kukeyev’s freekick at the back post. A linesman’s flag for offside spared Robert Green scrutiny of how he ended up stranded as the Kazakh striker, who was to limp off ten minutes later, enjoyed a free header.

The visitors finally seized control with two goals in the space of five minutes at the end of the opening period.

The first came from a corner on the left that was played short by Frank Lampard to Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool midfielder turned the fullback all too easily and sent over a left-foot cross that Barry, unchallenged beyond the back post, was able to steer back across Mokin into the net.

Gerrard was also the instigator of the second with his cross taking a deflection over the head of Mokin, who, scrambling backwards, was only able to palm the ball towards Heskey, who hooked in a first-time finish from close range.

Shaun Wright-Phillips was hardly any more influential than Walcott but the Manchester City winger did start the move that led to England’s third goal by sending Johnson on a 73rd-minute overlap down the right side of the box.

The defender’s cross was deflected goalwards off Rooney’s knee, forcing Mokin into a superb save, but the goalkeeper’s impressive effort proved in vain. Rooney was first to the loose ball and flipped his body acrobatically to hook it back into the net.

Five minutes later, Lampard added the fourth with an emphatic spot-kick after Heskey was fouled while straining to reach the rebound from Ashley Cole’s well-saved effort.

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