Fabio Capello was inarguably the happier of the two managers on wednesday as a thumping 5-1 over the Croats at Wembley. Revenge was a word being carelessly strewn around in the build up to the qualifiers game as this was tipped to be a chance for the English to inflict the qualification wound that they suffered just more than a year ago when they were beaten 3-2 by the Croats. Fabio Capello was no doubt underplaying the revenge element to get his boys focussed on a world cup berth. The pain of missing the Euro 2008 was bad enough but this was even bigger.
Amid croatian accusations of a conspiracy that saw Luka Modric missing out due to an injury, England were sticking on to Robert Green as the Guardian of the goal f or the game. Capello decided to bring in Modric’s Spurs teammate Aaron Lennon into the English right wing. This turned out to be one hell of a move. The Croatians had tried to capitalise on rightback Glen Johnson vulnerablity in defence by tinkering with their left back , the plan backfired abysmally as Lennon continued to cause problems right from the start with his overlapping runs with Johnson’s. In the 3rd minute of the game England got a penalty , though a legitimate decision for the foul on Lennon inside the box! Lampard converted from the spot coolly. Croatians didn’t seem to have control of the ball for long periods and were constantly pressured by the likes of Barry and Gerrard. This pressure bore fruit in the 18 th minute as Gerrard headed home a Lennon cross into the back of the net making it a liverpool-spurs combo. First half came to an end with the scoreline reading 2-0 in England’s favor. There were very few attempts on goal by the Croats in the first half and seemed a far cry from the side that took England apart in the Euro Quals.
Second half began with Croatia making changes up front to the attack replacing Olic and Pokrivac with Klasnic and Rakitic. Croatians seemed more convincing in the opening minutes of the 2nd half keeping possession and also managing produce a save off Robert Green who was not stretched in the 1st half. Right when Croatia seemed to pushing it’s way in , England produced a goal when Lampard expertly headed in a Glen Johnson cross to make WC spot seem even more confirmed. And to make matters worse Rooney played the ball across to Gerrard who headed a looped header in to the net. The Croatian goalie was trying to close down Rooney but was helpless as he saw the ball float across to the liverpool midfielder. In the next minute Croatians pulled a goal back via Eduardo , who was being booed by the English fans, from a series of rebounds that came off a couple of good saves from Green. Goalkeeping blunders seem to be the motif of Eng-Croatia game as Croatian Runje failed to kick the ball properly from a backpass and ended up feeding it straight up to Rooney who more than obliged and slided it in to the net making it an emphatic 5-1 ensuring a world cup spot for the English lions!
Heskey was the unsung hero of the game winning the ball at vital positions but his finishing came in for a bit of a stick when he missed a one-on-one in the 1st half!