Saturday, March 26, 2005

Irish eyes aren't smiling

England may have cruised to a 4-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Northern Ireland, but it wasn't really a particularly good afternoon for Newcastle players.

Aaron Hughes captained England's Old Trafford opponents, and with the rest of his side worked hard to preserve a goalless scoreline at the break. He wasn't culpable for their defensive self-destruction of the second period - the blame for that could be laid squarely at the door of left-back Tony Capaldi and Hughes's central defensive partner Colin Murdoch. Trying to contain Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney for 90 minutes was always going to be a tough task.

Kieron Dyer can also consider himself unfortunate, despite coming off the bench to set Frank Lampard up perfectly with his first touch, only for the Chelsea midfielder to crash the ball against the bar. By that time, Joe Cole had scored a fine goal to cap an excellent display of skill and tenacity, effectively securing the fourth midfield berth alongside Lampard, Gerrard and Beckham and consigning Dyer to an extended period on the bench. For once, I actually feel sorry for the lad, because he's at last started translating his undoubted talent into consistently decent performances at club level and deserves a proper run-out for the national side.

Elsewhere, Craig Bellamy, close personal friend of Graeme Souness, couldn't prevent Wales from crashing to a 2-0 home defeat to Austria. After so nearly qualifying for Euro 2004, the wheels have well and truly fallen off for Wales - this result leaves them bottom of England's group and almost entirely out of the reckoning for qualification.


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