Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Manchester United 2 - 1 Wolfsburg

Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were on target as Manchester United came from behind to beat Wolfsburg 2-1 in an entertaining Champions League clash at Old Trafford.

The German champions took the lead after 56 minutes through Edin Dzeko's towering header but evergreen midfielder Giggs fired home a free-kick to pull United back on level terms just three minutes later.
Carrick curled home what proved to be the winner with 12 minutes remaining to give United two wins from two in Group B and inflict Wolfsburg's first defeat in the competition.
The Bundesliga side, making their debut in Europe's premier club competition this season, kicked off their campaign with an impressive 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow a fortnight ago, Brazilian striker Grafite completing a hat-trick with four minutes to go.
And Armin Veh's side continued where they left off in Germany, taking the game to their hosts in a rainy Manchester and making most of the early running.
Grafite and strike partner Dzeko started for the German club, with Obafemi Martins again forced to start on the bench, and early interchanges between the pair helped reinforce their reputation as a force to be reckoned with.
Certainly, United's backline appeared slightly unnerved by Wolfsburg's strong start to the game and both Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra gave the ball away cheaply within the opening 10 minutes.
Vidic's aberration, after just four minutes, allowed Zvjezdan Misimovic, Dzeko's Bosnian compatriot, the chance to shoot on goal and Tomasz Kuszczak, preferred to Ben Foster in United's goal, was forced into making his first save of the night.
As an attacking force, United struggled during the opening stages of the game, and part of the reason became clear when Dimitar Berbatov, who was overlooked in favour of Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, started to warm up on the sidelines on the quarter-hour mark.

In front of the watching Fabio Capello, Owen had tweaked his groin and was forced off the pitch with just 20 minutes played. Enter Berbatov, and United's attacking play became noticeably sharper.
His impact was almost immediate, the Bulgarian's backheel finding Antonio Valencia, who wastefully shot wide of the mark on 25 minutes.
Wayne Rooney then found the back of the net from Berbatov's ball across the face of goal but the strike was chalked off for offside. Replays later showed Berbatov to have been onside when he received the ball.
It was not the last time United were to have a goal disallowed on the night - Giggs also had an effort ruled out for offside after the break, and again it was a contentious decision as replays showed the Welshman was played in as the ball pinged off the legs of Misimovic.
With Berbatov pulling the strings, United looked a different proposition and Carrick nearly opened the scoring after having profited from the Bulgarian's clever through pass in the 30th minute.
Berbatov himself then fired over from Giggs's back-post cross before Carrick saw a diving header saved by Benaglio.
But Wolfsburg maintained a threat of their own and Christian Gentner's header over the bar on 34 minutes served as a reminder that at 0-0 this game was still up for grabs.
But it did not stay goalless for long and as Berbatov's influence diminished Wolfsburg broke the deadlock when Dzeko leapt above Evra to direct a header past Kuszczak 11 minutes into the second half.
United hit back almost immediately, Giggs notching his 150th goal for United with a heavily deflected free-kick that wrong-footed Benaglio in the Wolfsburg goal.
The goal gave United a lift and they surged forward in search of a winner. Rooney almost found it with a sumptuous curling effort that flew inches wide of the angle of post and bar before Carrick finally did, the England midfielder sending a shot into the top corner after Berbatov and Giggs conspired to tee him up on the edge of the penalty area.
But still the visitors refused to accept defeat and when Josue lifted his head with six minutes remaining, Old Trafford hearts were firmly in mouths. But his stabbed effort bounced wide and with it went Wolfsburg's hopes of getting anything from the game.
United are now three points clear at the top of Group B with six points. Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow have three apiece while Besiktas are bottom with none after their defeat to the Russians in the day's early game.

Manchester United FC vs Wolfsburg preview

Led by a front pair of Grafite and Edin Džeko even Sir Alex Ferguson concedes is "incredible", Armin Veh says there is no reason for his VfL Wolfsburg charges to be initimidated by the Old Trafford atmosphere when they take on Manchester United FC. He feels the experience of big Bundesliga crowds will mask the fact this will be the German side's away debut in the UEFA Champions League group stage, even if they are up against three-time European titleholders.

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
The two Wolfsburg [strikers] scored 71 goals between them last season which is incredible, so we're looking forward to the game. I believe that if the home record is good it gives you a good chance to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League. And over the years our home record has been pretty good. We won our first match away from home which is a very big bonus to us. Germany is a good football nation. It says a lot for Wolfsburg's ambition: the progress they made last year, they did it in a very positive way. Sides from countries like Germany are always capable of winning the Champions League. The last few years it has been dominated by English teams, but there's always the possibility of someone coming in.

Armin Veh, Wolfsburg coach
Despite the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tévez, United are still strong. When you take a look at the table you see that they haven't lost in six matches so I see no significant changes – Manchester United have the same quality. This is a special game. United have played in more than 150 Champions League matches, while for us it's just our second game, but we're not going to sit back. I can't say if the lads will be inspired or scared of playing their first match at Old Trafford, but we'll still play our game, otherwise it'll be tough for us. But if you talking about the atmosphere, nothing beats the Bundesliga where crowds are enormous. There is a chance that Obafemi Martins will be brought into action and we'll play with three strikers, but of course it's not easy for him to win the competition with two strikers like Grafite and Edin Džeko.

Weekend results
26/09/09 Stoke City FC 0-2 United
(Berbatov 62, O'Shea 77)
• The win at Stoke was United's seventh in a row in all competitions. United have won 14 and lost just one of their last 16 Premier League games.

• United have scored 16 goals in their last five league matches. Of the 17 league goals they have scored this season 13 have come in the second half.

26/09/09 Wolfsburg 4-2 Hannover 96
(Misimović 8, Gentner 45, Hasebe 48, Džeko 62; Balitsch 28, Madlung 50og)
• It was Wolfsburg's fourth loss in six matches, their worst sequence since November/December 2007.

• Wolfsburg are yet to draw this season. After ten competitive games, they have won six and lost four, three of those defeats coming in the Bundesliga.

• Zvjezdan Misimović scored his fifth league goal of the season against Hannover, making him joint top scorer in the Bundesliga.

Team news
• United
Out: Owen Hargreaves (knee), Rafael (shoulder), Gabriel Obertan (calf), Edwin van der Sar (broken finger)
Doubtful: Ji-Sung Park (illness)
Suspended: none
Misses next match if booked: none

• Wolfsburg
Out: none
Doubtful: Josué (knee)
Suspended: none
Misses next match if booked: none

• United have not lost a home game in the UEFA Champions League since a 1-0 defeat by AC Milan in February 2005.

• This is Wolfsburg's maiden trip to England, although they did emerge victorious from their first encounter with an English team last season – beating Portsmouth FC 3-2 in the UEFA Cup group stage with goals from Džeko, Misimović and Christian Gentner.

• United forward Dimitar Berbatov scored twice in eight Bundesliga matches against Wolfsburg during five and a half years with Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

• Wolfsburg striker Martins was on target for Newcastle United FC in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on the opening day of the 2008/09 Premier League season.

Did you know?
Sir Alex has twice claimed European honours against German clubs – his Aberdeen FC side defeated Hamburger SV to land the 1983 UEFA Super Cup and United beat FC Bayern München in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Man United Scores Twice against Stoke City

Manchester United went top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

The champions' victory, coupled with Chelsea's 3-1 defeat at Wigan, meant they overtook Carlo Ancelotti's side on goal difference.
Second-half goals from Dimitar Berbatov and John O'Shea secured the points, but it was the introduction from the bench of Ryan Giggs that proved decisive.
The veteran midfielder unlocked a previously solid Stoke defence, setting up both goals and proving his enduring ability.

Sir Alex Ferguson kept faith with under-fire keeper Ben Foster, but the England man could hardly have had an easier time against his former club.
Foster had such an easy afternoon, he could have sat in the United goalmouth with his pipe and slippers and still kept a clean sheet.
United are used to being patient; just four of their 17 Premier League goals this season have come in the first half.
The only clear-cut chance of the first half fell to winger Antonio Valencia, who has made a slow start to life with the Champions.
The Ecuadorean winger raced in from the right flank and bore down on goal, but clipped his shot just past Thomas Sorensen's left-hand post.
Elsewhere it was just half-chances for United; Wayne Rooney hooked an early volley over, Nani was equally wayward and Berbatov saw a shot blocked.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis is an arch-pragmatist, putting results ahead of romance. Their performance in the top flight since summer 2008 shows it is working, and the Potters were happy to defend in numbers in front of their home crowd.
Time and again, there would be 21 players inside the Stoke half but no breakthrough for the champions, who were expertly forced wide from where the delivery of Nani and Valencia lacked quality.
Dave Kitson provided Stoke's main threat, bothering Rio Ferdinand to distraction before a collision with Valencia saw him pick up a shin injury that put him off his game.
Stoke's disciplined display hardly made for great entertainment, but the 28,000 roaring fans inside the Britannia Stadium were clearly prepared to sacrifice that in exchange for a point against the champions.
However, on 54 minutes, Ferguson brought Giggs on for the disappointing Nani and the veteran soon showed what United had been missing.
Just after the hour mark, he received a Darren Fletcher pass in the left channel, then played a clever square ball across the six-yard line to present Berbatov with a tap-in.

It was just the sort of simple, intelligent play United will miss when the 35-year-old eventually ends his glittering career.
Having been geared to protect the stalemate, Stoke struggled to shift into a more attacking gear.
The visitors continued to dominate possession and chance were fleeting and few for Stoke.
James Beattie and Tuncay Sanli came off the bench, but Giggs continued to exert his magisterial influence.
Having claimed three assists in last weekend's derby, the Welshman made it two against Stoke with a pinpoint free-kick that O'Shea glanced inside the far corner.
Giggs might have added a goal of his own when Paul Scholes found him unmarked, but sent the shot high over with the outside of his left boot.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Manchester United held on to defeat Wolves

Ten-man Manchester United held on to defeat Wolves 1-0 thanks to a Danny Welbeck strike in their third round Carling Cup clash at Old Trafford.

Wolves were unable to take advantage of Fabio's 29th minute dismissal for a professional foul on Michael Kightly and United eased through to round four with the minimum of fuss thanks to Welbeck's composed 66th minute finish.
It was Wolves who had the first opportunity of the match after 12 minutes and the former United striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was the man with the chance.
Ebanks-Blake and Kightly had shared a few neat link-ups prior to this one and this time Kightly fed last season's top scorer in the Championship, who cut inside and hit a shot that had Tomasz Kuszczak at full stretch, but that in the end was just too high.
United, as is customary at Old Trafford, enjoyed the majority of possession, but in part due to Nani's inability to produce a final ball to back up his neat wing play, the hosts hadn't created a chance of note in the opening 28 minutes.
In the 29th minute Wolves broke after a United attack and when the ball broke loose after a challenge by Wes Brown on Stefan Maierhofer, Kightly was away and clear.
Fabio was caught on the wrong side and with Kightly bearing down on goal Fabio slipped and pulled the Wolves winger down with him, giving referee Peter Walton no option but to send the young defender off.
Wolves had a couple of chances to make their numerical advantage tell in the final quarter of an hour of the half, but David Jones, himself a former United youngster, was guilty of missing the best of them.

Goalmouth action was few and far between in the second half and other than a deflected 64th minute effort from Nani that struck Marcus Hahnemann's post and rebounded to safety, chances were at a premium and the match looked to be at a stalemate with Wolves reluctant to go all out for the win.
All that changed two minutes later when Michael Carrick picked out Owen on the edge of the Wolves penalty area and the striker played a perfectly weighted first time pass to Welbeck, who finished confidently past Hahnemann.
Wolves brought on Kevin Doyle for the tiring Ebanks-Blake and the Irish international had the best of the remaining chances in the game, however he found Kuszczak in decent form in goal for United and the visitors were unable to get back into the game.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Man united wins a dramatic derby

Substitute Michael Owen netted a dramatic injury-time winner as United beat City 4-3 in a pulsating Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

Owen replaced Dimitar Berbatov on 78 minutes and struck with a typically cool finish in the sixth minute of injury time to settle a thrilling match in which City had three times come from behind.
Indeed, Craig Bellamy thought he had snatched all three points at the death when he netted his second of the game in the 90th minute, but Owen ensured he will go down in United folklore with an even later strike.

Wayne Rooney had given United the perfect start with the opener after just two minutes only for City to reply through Gareth Barry soon after. A Darren Fletcher brace in the second half twice restored United's lead with Bellamy maintaining City hope with his first in between.
The result sees United move level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table while City's first defeat of the season saw them remain in fourth - at least until Chelsea meet Spurs in the late kick-off.
That Owen managed to steal the headlines says much for the late drama at Old Trafford, given that the day also marked the return of Carlos Tevez to his former stomping ground.
The Argentine managed to shake off a knee injury to start against his former club but amicable scenes in the tunnel which saw Tevez hugging some of his old team-mates quickly disappeared as he was roundly booed on his entrance into the Old Trafford arena.
His every touch was subsequently jeered by those fans for whom he was an idol not so long ago.
But Tevez, who had said he expected to receive a warm welcome on his return, was not diminished by the reception and, almost inevitably, was heavily involved during an explosive first half.

Not only did his hassling and harrying create the chance for Barry to equalise, he was also booked for a late challenge on Rio Ferdinand before hitting an upright before the half-time whistle sounded.
The day started in the worst possible fashion for City as Rooney capitalised on a shocking lapse of concentration in the visitors' defence in just the second minute, firing past Shay Given after the totally unmarked Patrice Evra was allowed to receive a throw-in and find the England striker in the box.
The goal rocked City and with United not giving an inch early on, the pre-match bluster surrounding a shift of power appeared to be nothing more than hot air.
But Mark Hughes's side are undoubtedly a different animal to the one on show last season and they proved as much when they drew back on level terms 14 minutes later, thanks to a combination of a calamitous blunder by Ben Foster and some typical Tevez tenacity.

The England keeper opted against hitting row Z with a clearance, instead choosing to turn back inside his penalty area so he could pick the ball up. But he did not reckon on Tevez, who stole in and dispossessed him before playing the ball across to Barry. The midfielder still had a lot to do, but he coolly found the corner with a first-time strike.
As the opening period wore on, the game settled, but Tevez ensured the excitement was merely on a backburner and it soon reignited when the Argentine hit the woodwork after a careless Rooney backheel allowed Kolo Toure to advance and feed the former United man.

United burst out of the blocks in the second half in a similar vein to how they had in the first and Fletcher restored their lead just four minutes after the restart, rising highest to head home Ryan Giggs's cross.
Soon after Giggs was denied adding another by the legs of Given as the veteran increasingly became a central figure in the game.
But before United could extend their advantage, Bellamy thundered City level for a second time with a stunning strike on 52 minutes that flew into the top corner, leaving Foster no chance at all.
The goal came against the run of play but United did not allow it to derail their form. Indeed they proceeded to dominate the remainder of the second half as should have wrapped up all three points much earlier than they did.
With Giggs pulling the strings, Berbatov in particular was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. That he did not had much to do with the excellent Shay Given, who twice denied the Bulgarian headers with fine saves.
Given beat a Giggs half-volley behind on 70 minutes, but there was nothing the Irishman could do about Fletcher's second, a near carbon copy of his first, as United took the lead once again.

Still City refused to accept defeat and following an opportunity apiece for Shaun Wright-Phillips and Micah Richards, Bellamy struck with a thunderbolt that stunned the Old Trafford faithful as the visiting support joyfully celebrated.
But those roles were soon reversed as Owen swooped deep into injury time as Hughes was left to bemoan the addition of six minutes of injury time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Manchester United wins by scholes header

Paul Scholes popped up to head home the only goal of the game as Manchester United kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win at Besiktas.

Besiktas may not be the force of recent seasons, but Istanbul is an intimidating place and United had to ride out a storm and keep the crowd in check.
That they did in polished style and were rewarded with the winning goal, Scholes' 22nd in the Champions League, at a time when the crowd were roaring on the home side.
A win on the road in Europe is welcome at any time, but Sir Alex Ferguson is sure to be thrilled to have got this potential banana skin out of the way at the advent of the campaign.
United were sharp out of the blocks against a Besiktas side who seemed intent on proving they were no back number following the bitter weekend defeat to Galatasaray.
Scholes, sent off at the weekend, had plenty of life in his legs and a superb tackle fashioned a half-chance for Wayne Rooney but his shot from 25 yards flew wide.
Rooney looked extremely sharp in his solo attacking role, popping up all the way along the front line and he exchanged passes with Nani before teeing up Michael Carrick and his well-struck shot was clasped at full stretch by Hakan Arikan.
Arikan was called into action again on the quarter-hour, tipping the ball away from danger after Antonio Valencia had flicked on a near-post corner.
Valencia had the upper hand against Ibrahim Uzulmez on the flank and he benefited from a fine piece of play from Rooney and delivered a teasing cross into the box, but Ibrahim Kas was on hand to clear after Arikan had fumbled.
Rooney seemed to be at the heart of all United's positive play and he flipped a great cross into the box after popping up on the left, but Valencia could only glance a header wide.
Besiktas kept the crowd on their side by working hard to stifle United and they grew in confidence as the first half developed, but were restricted to shots from distance.
Serder Ozkan looked the most potent attacking threat for Besiktas and he almost grabbed the opening goal, but his shot which deflected off Jonny Evans' boot looped onto the roof of the net.
United could and possibly should have taken the lead at the start of the second half. A teasing cross from Nani forced a drastic defensive clearance from Matteo Ferrari, the ball was returned into the path of Carrick but he was unable to generate any power on his strike from eight yards.
Ferguson shuffled his pack, with Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen brought on for Rooney and Carrick. Rooney had steam coming from his ears as he trudged off and made his feelings known by flinging his boot into the ground.
Owen looked like justifying the substitution when appearing to spring the offside trap but after rounding the keeper, a late flag halted him in his tracks.
Valencia looked like United's most likely source of a goal following Rooney's departure and he flashed a low shot a yard wide after leaving his marker chasing shadows.
United's winner came on 77 minutes and it was somewhat appropriate that Valencia had a hand in it.

The Ecuadorian exchanged passes with Owen before shifting the ball to Nani. The winger made space and shot on goal, Arikan made a fine diving save but Scholes was on hand to nod home the rebound.
The goal calmed the crowd a shade, but the introduction of Nihat with eight minutes remaining raised the decibel level and he crafted a chance with a sweet cross but Mert Nobre was just unable to stretch his neck far enough to reach.
Owen squandered a good chance crafted by Berbatov, but it mattered little as United took a welcome three points.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Besiktas v Man United Match Preview

Here we are again. Can Manchester United achieve a third successive final in the UEFA Champions League? today’s game against Besiktas will be tough. In fact, the whole of Group B will not be easy. German Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg will be difficult but the major test will be the home and away ties to CSKA Moscow.

But Man Utd are still firm favourites. And despite the difficult opposition in this group, many will expect nothing more than a first place finish. First up, Besiktas. Liverpool did beat them 8-0 at Anfield a few years ago, Ryan Babel hitting a hat-trick but it is unlikely that a similar result will happen in Turkey.

The hostile atmosphere described by former Turkey goalkeeper Rustu Recber, as the “noisiest, most passionate fans” and the veteran believes that it may be “hell” for United.

Man Utd are in great form at the moment, but Besiktas on the other hand are not. One win from five games wasn’t exactly how the Turkish league champions would have liked their title defence to get underway.

Who will United play today?
Ben Foster looks likely to keep his place in goal after a much improved performance against Tottenham Hotspur, while the back four should remain the same. Either Antonio Valencia, Nani or Park should get the two winger spots but who will play in the centre of midfield is unclear. Michael Carrick may get a nod, but who will partner him? Wayne Rooney and possibly Michael Owen could start up front, but we will see if that is the case.

Besiktas have some familiar names. Rustu Recber, of course, and Nihat Kahveci, who played for Spanish outfit Villareal in past seasons, and he will no doubt be the main threat. The side are not short of talent. German Michael Fink is a good player, and Matias Delgado, the Argentinian, along with Brazilian Bobo are also players to watch out for.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Manchester United too strong for Spurs

Ten-man Manchester United came from a goal down to win 3-1 at White Hart Lane and end Tottenham's 100 per cent Premier League record.

Jermain Defoe opened the scoring with a spectacular overhead kick after just 47 seconds, but thereafter things went downhill for Spurs.
A Ryan Giggs free-kick, Anderson's first United goal and a Wayne Rooney strike turned the match around, and not even Paul Scholes's red card could halt the champions' progress.
After opening the season with four wins, Harry Redknapp's side were knocked off their perch after an afternoon that began so magnificently when Defoe launched himself acrobatically at a dropping ball and powered a picture perfect bicycle kick past Ben Foster.

It was his eighth goal in as many appearances for club and country this season, and the kind of strike that only a man at the top of his game would attempt, let alone execute to perfection.
Tottenham have never been a team to sit on a lead, and within a minute they presented United with a chance to level. Dimitar Berbatov backheeled into the path of Scholes, who dragged his shot disappointingly wide.
Less than four minutes in, United went close again. Darren Fletcher seized on a loose ball on the right side of the box and brought a fine save from Carlo Cudicini with his low shot.
Defoe's early piece of genius seemed to inspire others to attempt the spectacular, and Peter Crouch did just that when he chested down a long clearance and, in one motion, volleyed the ball goalwards from 30 yards but watched it sail off target.
Crouch forced a save out of Foster with another volley, while Tom Huddlestone also tried a volley on his left foot but sent it over.
On 25 minutes, Wilson Palacios went into the book for a two-footed challenge on Berbatov, but a worse punishment was to come.
The presence of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford meant very little free-kick practice for Giggs, but the Portuguese's departure for Real Madrid has allowed the veteran to dust off his shooting boots.

Rooney helped disguise the Welshman's run-up, and Giggs curled the ball past Cudicini into the top-right corner.
Giggs, nearly 36, is a man who simply oozes statistics. This was his 700th start for United, and he has now scored in each of the last 18 league campaigns.
Anderson, by contrast, had failed to find the net in any of his 77 previous games for United.
His goal drought has always seemed baffling considering his willingness to get forward and have a shot, and is even harder to understand after watching him thump the ball low into the right corner from the edge of the box.
The Brazilian even had a machine-gun celebration prepared - clearly one that had been more than two years in the making.
Spurs started the second half in impressively determined fashion. Robbie Keane had a shot deflected over, Jermaine Jenas forced a brilliant save from Foster and Crouch headed against the bar - simply too tall to convert his towering header.

United, meanwhile, threatened to self-destruct. In the space of eight minutes Scholes executed two of his trademark late, wild tackles that left referee Andre Marriner no option but to send him off.
It was the ninth dismissal of the 34-year-old's career; we can definitively say he will never learn.
Alex Ferguson reacted by replacing Berbatov with Michael Carrick - both ex-Spurs men were heartily booed when the change was made - and United barely noticed any difference.
Rooney went close with a low shot that brought a brilliant save from Cudicini, then made it three on 78 minutes after a counter-attack from a Tottenham free-kick.
With Sebastien Bassong and Ledley King upfield, Rooney cut in from the right, bamboozled Alan Hutton and finished through the legs of Cudicini.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

England beats Croatia 5-1 and qualify to WC 2010

England qualified for next summer's FIFA World Cup finals after an empthatic 5-1 win against Croatia with both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard scoring twice.

The win maintained England's100 per cent record in Group 6 and went some way to vanquishing the memories of their painful defeat by the same opposition almost two years ago – a result which ended their hopes of competing at UEFA EURO 2008™. Lampard and Gerrard both struck either side of half-time and although Eduardo pulled one back, Wayne Rooney added a fifth with 12 minutes remaining.

The conditions contrasted markedly to those during Croatia's famous 3-2 win at Wembley in 2007 – a balmy late summer's evening as opposed to that sodden November night. Then, it was Croatia who took a two-goal lead, but England were quickest out of the blocks this time. Gerrard had already had a penalty claim turned down before Aaron Lennon burst off his flank and induced Josip Šimunić into an ungainly challenge. Lampard sent his seventh-minute spot-kick low and hard to the goalkeeper's right.

An unsighted Vedran Runje then did well to deny Barry, but England were two goals to the good by the 18th minute. The ball was swept out to Lennon who floated in a far-post cross which Gerrard, arriving late, nodded into the far corner. Lennon and Lampard both went close before Emile Heskey spurned two excellent opportunities just before the break.

Croatia enjoyed their best spell immediately after the restart, but any hope was soon extinguished by Lampard, who headed in Johnson's cut-back. Gerrard then powered in Wayne Rooney's cross before Eduardo side-footed in following a sprawling double save from Robert Green. Rooney then finished the scoring as England qualified for a World Cup with two games to spare for the first time. Croatia, meanwhile, are left to battle it out with Ukraine for the section's play-off place.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Manchester United and Spurs players recalled by England

Wes Brown and Ben Foster of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur's Peter Crouch and Aaron Lennon were recalled to the England squad Sunday for this month's matches against Slovenia and Croatia.
Coach Fabio Capello recalled Brown for injured United team mate Rio Ferdinand in defence while Foster, who has recovered from injury, replaces Birmingham City's Joe Hart after missing out for the friendly against the Netherlands on August 12.
Crouch and Lennon, who both scored in a 2-1 win over Birmingham Saturday, are back in the party after impressive early season displays for Tottenham who are joint top of the Premier League after winning their opening four matches.
Arsenal's Theo Walcott is omitted while he recovers from a back injury which has kept him sidelined so far this season.
The 24-man party will assemble next week before the friendly against Slovenia on September 5 and the Group Six World Cup qualifier with Croatia at Wembley on Sept 9.
England have won all seven of their World Cup qualifiers so far and will make sure of their place at next year's finals in South Africa if they beat Croatia.
The visitors will be without their main playmaker Luka Modric after he broke a bone in his fibula playing for Spurs against Birmingham Saturday.
Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (Manchester United), Robert Green (West Ham United), Paul Robinson (Blackburn Rovers)
Defenders: Wes Brown (Manchester United), Wayne Bridge (Manchester City), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham United)
Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Aston Villa), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur)
Forwards: Carlton Cole (West Ham United), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur), Peter Crouch (Tottenham Hotspur), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)