Red-hot Rooney rattles Belarus

Wayne Rooney bagged a brilliant brace as England made their best-ever start to a World Cup qualifying campaign with a 3-1 win over Belarus.

Last Updated: 15/10/08 at 21:46 Post Comment

Rooney: Swamped after deadly double

Rooney: Swamped after deadly double

More of the games that matter

Upgrade in minutes or watch with a NOW TV Day Pass.

The Manchester United star took his tally to five in the last three internationals with two clinical second-half finishes for Fabio Capello's side in Minsk.

It means that England have won their opening four games in a World Cup qualifying campaign for the first time, surpassing the trio of victories ahead of the 1958, 1986 and 1998 tournaments.

Capello will be able to rest easily for the next six months before England resume their competitive programme in April, knowing his side are already firmly on course for the 2010 finals in South Africa.

And he will thanks his lucky stars once again he has someone of the ability of Rooney and a willing work-horse ally in Emile Heskey to call upon for the battles ahead.

It is difficult to think of any new superlatives to describe the importance of an on-song Rooney to England's hopes of finally achieving something tangible for the first time since the 1966 World Cup triumph.

But Heskey is proving almost as crucial a cog in the Capello wheel and he celebrated his 50th cap for his country by setting up the decisive second goal for his strike partner.

It must be music to the ears of the Wigan player to hear chants of 'there's only one Emile Heskey' after the doubts cast in the past over whether he was good enough to perform on this stage.

Capello had warned Belarus would provide England with one of their sternest tests after watching them in action three times against Argentina, Germany and Ukraine, and his concerns proved justified in the first half.

They looked comfortable on the ball from the first whistle, with Vitaly Kutuzov and Pavel Sitko causing problems, and gave a searching examination to ring-rusty looking left-back Wayne Bridge, who was deputising for the injured Ashley Cole.

But England wrestled the initiative away from them in the second 45 minutes once Rooney had restored their advantage,

Belarus knocked the ball around in a confident manner in the early stages on a bobbly pitch without over-extending the England defence.

Theo Walcott threatened to unlock the home rearguard with some trickery on the right flank before his eventual low cross only just eluded the run of Rooney who appealed in vain that he had been held back.

Then after 11 minutes Steven Gerrard's stunning strike temporarily silenced the passionate Belarus crowd.

Rooney battled away in typical fashion in the middle of the park to win the ball before laying it off for Gerrard, and his fizzing first-time effort from 30 yards out curled past the dive of Alexander Kulchy into the corner of the net.

It was the Liverpool skipper's first competitive goal for his country since his brace 19 months ago in the European Championship qualifier with Andorra in Barcelona.

But if England thought that would knock the stuffing out of Belarus, they were very much mistaken as their opponents engineered wave after wave of attacks.

David James found himself in the thick of the action on several occasions. Sitko twice found space outside the box to extend the Portsmouth keeper who also denied Dmitry Molosh from a similar distance.

Anton Putilo became the first player to be yellow-carded for a late challenge on Frank Lampard but, as the Belarus pressure started to grow, it came as no surprise when they equalised through Sitko after 28 minutes.

After putting together a move of around 20 passes, Vitaly Kutuzov and Igor Stasevich were the creators on the right with the latter checking back inside after Bridge had dived in.

He then had ample time to measure and float an inviting cross into the path of Sitko, who gave James no chance with a close-range header.

England retaliated after this setback and Heskey directed a near-post header just wide from a Lampard corner.

Kulchy clung on to a low skiddy drive from Lampard and was then relieved to see Walcott strike a low shot straight at him after wriggling free inside the box.

But England needed only five minutes of the second half to regain the advantage through Rooney.

Heskey was the creator with a powerful run into the box which took him past the challenge of Sergei Omelyanchuk before he turned the ball across the box - and Rooney did the rest with a clinical close-range finish.

Belarus were now posing little of the threat of the first half and, with 15 minutes remaining, Rooney killed off the game as a contest with his second.

Bridge played the ball into Gerrard after a dummy from Rooney who was then well positioned to receive the ball from the midfielder before clipping it past Kulchy.

Gerrard should have made it 4-1 in the closing stages but he hit the post with the goal at his mercy after rounding Kulchy.

There was just time for David Beckham to win his 107th cap as a late substitute for Rooney and overtake Sir Bobby Charlton in the all-time list.

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

More Match Results

There are no results at present.

Footer 365

Benitez emotional at Real unveiling

Rafael Benitez refused to discuss Real Madrid's apparent interest in Raheem Sterling and David de Gea at his Bernabeu unveiling on Wednesday.

Rafa Benitez says he has 'returned home' after being named Real Madrid coach

Rafa Benitez says he has "returned home" after being installed as the new coach of Real Madrid on a three-year contract.

Sepp Blatter receives standing ovation from FIFA staff

Sepp Blatter received a standing ovation on his return to work a day after he announced he would resign as FIFA president.

Mail Box

Does Anybody Care About Russia?

Do any of us really care about the decision to give the 2018 World Cup to Russia? We're not sure anybody does. We have mails on Blatter, Rafa and lots more...

Celebrate Good Times, But Hard Work Starts Now

The Mailbox is joyous over the impending departure of Sepp Blatter, but offers a reminder that problems remain. Plus title winners, CL play-offs and Nigel Adkins...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company