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Beckham eases pressure on McClaren with masterful display

6 June 2007 22:45

TALLINN (AFP) - A David Beckham-inspired England eased the pressure on manager Steve McClaren on Wednesday with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Estonia in their Euro 2008 qualifier.

They remain fourth in Group E, but closed to within three points of group leaders Croatia and Israel.

Joe Cole set England on their way after 38 minutes with his seventh international goal, and further goals from Peter Crouch and Michael Owen completed a simple win, but it was the recalled Beckham who took most of the plaudits, as he set up the second and third goals.

Dropped after the World Cup, he did not play for England for 11 months, but having created England's goal in Friday's 1-1 draw against Brazil, his right-footed deliveries have provided three of England's last four goals.

McClaren, mindful of the furious reaction of fans as England took 54 minutes to break down Andorra in March, had called for them to show "patience" in Tallinn, and he will probably feel that his message was heeded.

The truth, though, was that this was a far slicker, more coherent performance, and there was never, as there had been in Barcelona, a sense that this could become an embarrassment.

As so often in such games, as was just as the underdog begins to threaten that they conceded.

England had had all the early play, all the possession and all the chances, and after 30 fruitless minutes, there must have been a mounting fear that, as in Israel, the ball simply wasn't going to go in.

Beckham had flipped a free-kick just wide, Crouch had gone close after Cole had chested down a Beckham cross and only a last-ditch challenge from Andrei Stepanov had denied Owen after a Beckham free-kick had caused panic, and as chances went begging Estonia's self-belief grew.

A couple of surges from Vladimir Voskoboinikov, the muscular centre-forward, began to suggest that Estonia could perhaps break their duck in the qualifying competition.

Dmitry Kruglov, the bustling left-back, even began to make overlapping runs, but, seven minutes before the break, the opener finally arrived for England.

Wayne Bridge had had an excellent game down the left, his crosses a frequent source of danger, but it was from a throw-in that the goal came.

Crouch, who dominated in the air as he should have done given his height advantage, flicked on, and Cole turned Kruglov to lash a shot on the turn just inside Mart Poom's left-hand post.

Crouch got the second himself - his twelfth goal for his country - nine minutes after half-time.

Beckham played in a characteristic cross from the right that arced behind the Estonia back-line and bounced up for the Liverpool forward, who cleverly shaped his header over Poom and into the net.

Eight minutes later, Beckham was again left in space in the left. His cross this time was a little deeper, and it was Owen who guided it home with a deft sidefoot - his first goal since scoring for England against Jamaica last June.

So, for the time being, the crisis is over. Victory over Estonia will not silence McClaren's critics, but, with four of their remaining five qualifiers at home, England will expect to qualify for Euro 2008, and that in itself should be enough to keep him in a job for another year.

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Info

0 - 3

Competition
EC Qualification
Date
6 June 2007
Kick-off
20:30
Half-time
0 - 1
Full-time
0 - 3
Venue
A. Le Coq Arena (Tallinn)
Attendance
9635

Goals

0 - 1
37' J. Cole
0 - 2
0 - 3
62' M. Owen

Lineups

Substitutes

Wednesday 1 October

Tuesday 30 September

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