Football: Rooney double leaves Capello's England cruising
MINSK, Oct 15, 2008 (AFP) -Another Wayne Rooney double fired England to a 3-1 win over Belarus as Fabio Capello's squad made it four wins out of four on the road to South Africa 2010.
Steven Gerrard's 11th-minute long-range strike had given the visitors a perfect start before Capello's men were pegged back by Pavel Sitko's deserved equaliser.
But two superbly-taken strikes by Rooney settled the contest after the break and England, 4-1 winners in Croatia last month, will enjoy their winter break from competitive internationals in the knowledge that they are firmly in command of group six.
Rooney, who also hit the net twice in the 5-1 win over Kazakhstan on Saturday, has now scored five goals in his last three international outings, helping England to their best-ever start to a World Cup qualifying campaign.
From the outset, Rooney was at the centre of England's best work.
After having complained bitterly that he had been impeded as he stretched to reach Theo Walcott's dangerous third-minute cross, the Manchester United forward was soon clipping the ball over a defender's head before teeing up Gerrard to open the scoring.
Cutting in from the left, the Liverpool midfielder's shot was placed rather than driven and it slipped pleasingly past the left-hand glove of Yury Zhaunou on its way to the bottom corner of the net.
It was exactly the start required by both Gerrard, who had admitted before the match that his place in Capello's starting XI was on the line, and England, but the initiative was quickly surrendered.
Dmitry Molosh, who had tested David James with an early freekick, caused greater problems with another long range strike that the England goalkeeper needed two attempts to gather.
Belarus's impressive left-back then set up Sitko for an edge-of-the-area drive that James deflected away.
The home side's pressure finally paid off in the 28th minute after a move that began with Zhaunou rolling the ball out of his own area.
With the 22nd pass of the move, Vitayly Kutuzov played Ihar Stasevich into the box in the inside right channel.
Wayne Bridge dived into an all-or-nothing challenge and the midfielder was able to cut inside and chip the ball towards the back post, where Sitko had glided away from his marker Walcott to nod past James.
The hosts deserved their equaliser but it was England who finished the opening half stronger.
Heskey spurned a good chance when he directed his near-post header from an inviting Lampard corner wide and there was another example of Walcott's sometimes suspect decision making.
Having broken clear of the Belarus back four, the Arsenal winger opted to shoot from a tight angle when a further touch into the box or an attempt to find Rooney in the middle might have served England's cause better.
The sense that the momentum had swung back to the visitors was confirmed five minutes after the break, when Heskey got round the back of the Belarus defence wide on the left.
Pulling away from Molosh at the near post, Rooney finished off his hard-working forward partner's low cross with a deft sidefoot finish across Zhaunou.
Walcott's subdued performance saw him replaced with Shaun Wright-Phillips while Heskey made way for Peter Crouch for the final 20 minutes.
But it was to be the players who started who wrapped up the victory with quarter of an hour left.
Running on to Bridge's pass, Gerrard played a first-time ball into the box for Rooney, who deftly sidestepped a challenge before clipping the ball past Zhaunou.
A reassuring night for Gerrard should have been capped by a second goal but after going round Zhaunou with three minutes left the Liverpool midfielder clipped what should have been a routine finish against the post.