Crouch gives England a helping hand to victory

by William Abbs

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Beating the best side in North America two months after a victory against the best side in Africa should be a cause of optimism for England in their quest to become the best side in the world, but Monday night’s 3-1 win over Mexico at Wembley was as qualified a success as the defeat of Egypt in March by the same score.

Mexico, who beat the United States 5-0 in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year, got the better of England in the first half, just as Egypt did when they came to Wembley fresh from having won their third successive Africa Cup of Nations title. This time, however, England managed to reach the interval in front whereas against the Pharaohs they trailed to a Mohamed Zidan goal after the first half.

The fact that Capello’s men held a 2-1 advantage over Mexico at the break owed as much to good fortune as it did to design. Ledley King had the freedom of the Mexican penalty area to nod home Peter Crouch’s header following a corner for the first goal after 17 minutes. Crouch is a difficult player to defend at set pieces for any side, even one with as relaxed an approach to marking as Javier Aguirre’s team. The Tottenham striker was at it again after 35 minutes for England’s second goal, and his 21st in 38 international appearances, when he managed to finish off an aerial ball in the aftermath of a corner by hook or by crook. Mostly by crook, replays suggested, given the position of his arm.

Guillermo Franco prodded a rebound past Robert Green with the last kick of the first half. The West Ham player’s celebrations were muted but that did not explain the bizarre outburst of incredulity by ITV commentator Peter Drury at the goal being given. It was a good three yards over the line, Peter, even Roy Carroll could see that.

Two minutes after the break, Glen Johnson cut in from the right wing and struck a powerful left-foot shot past the diminutive Oscar Perez in the Mexico goal. It was the Liverpool defender’s first international goal and it ended the game as a contest, which was a shame because in the first half Mexico had posed a real challenge to England by deciding, quite reasonably as it happened, that running at King and Rio Ferdinand was the best way to go. Between England’s goals, for example, little Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos had turned on their afterburners and left the long limbs of Ledley and Rio creaking in their wake, only for Green to produce a fine stop to deny Vela.

The big loser after Monday’s game, on a night when none of the fringe players particularly seized their opportunity, was Michael Carrick. His great asset used to be his ability to retain possession, never a bad thing at international level, and his performance as a substitute against Egypt earned him much praise. That was before his form for Manchester United collapsed at the end of the season, though, and tonight he gave away the ball with all the carefree abandon of a drama student distributing flyers on the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival. I would be surprised if he goes to South Africa now.

The margin of the result flattered England, then, but what Portugal would give for a win – they were held to a goalless draw by Cape Verde on the same evening.

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  • Darren

    I’m not so convinced, time and time again we are outplayed by lesser sides. The difference between Mexico and the likes of France, Italy, brazil and Spain is they will you a few chances.

    If we are to get to go far we’ll need to avoid all of the above otherwise I’m afraid it will be the same old story.

  • Dexy

    The Don will get us to the final, MMW! In fabio we trust!!

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