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OTHER ITA SITES:
European Championship 2008 Qualifiers – Macedonia 0:1 England
Steve McClaren’s one hundred percent record as boss continued as England ground out a rather uninspiring victory in Macedonia.
The long legs of Peter Crouch were enough to send England home happy with all three points and top spot in Group E.
Until the breakthrough early in the second half, many of the two thousand England fans present in the stadium will have watched with apprehension as the team entrusted to bring a bright new post-Eriksson era failed to break down a stubborn Macedonian defence fresh from an opening day victory against Estonia.
The game started in scrappy fashion, the opening twenty minutes a succession of free kicks whistled by an over-fussy referee.
The fact neither team could string two passes together hardly helped the game as a spectacle.
England’s patient build-up play was greeted by a chorus of boos and jeers from a partisan home crowd who burned the flag of St George and abused black players during England’s previous visit.
England’s main attacking threat came from Steven Gerrard.
The Liverpool skipper looks dangerous on the right hand side and has a much greater influence on a game than the ousted David Beckham.
But the biggest plus for England in recent games has been the emergence of Owen Hargreaves.
The defensive midfielder has been a revelation in his role just in front of the back four.
The young Bayern Munich players runs tirelessly, breaking up opposition attacks and setting up the next England play with a simple ball to one of the more creative players.
Unfortunately, Frank Lampard’s influence on a game seems to diminish each time England play.
The Chelsea man seems to have lost his way a little recently and needs a dramatic return to form to prevent his place in the team coming under threat.
But England can look forward to the return from the top of a moderate group.
The McClaren era is well under way but the tougher tests are yet to come.
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