Dubious penalty helps England to victory

Referee Eriksson points to the spot as Slovenian players protest.
A controversial penalty from Frank Lampard and a second half strike from prolific substitute Jermain Defoe helped England to a 2-1 friendly victory over Slovenia at Wembley on Saturday.

Both sides had chances to go ahead before England striker Wayne Rooney went down dramatically in the penalty area on the half hour mark. The Manchester United star had been involved in a shirt-tugging battle with Slovenian defender Bostjan Cesar as Steven Gerrard’s free kick came into the box, but he slid to the turf under little apparent challenge. Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson pointed to the spot to the amazement and annoyance of the Slovenian players and salt was rubbed into the wound as Chelsea midfielder Lampard thumped the ball home. Coming in the wake of Arsenal striker Eduardo’s two-game ban for diving in a Champions League qualifier against Celtic, the penalty award is set to spark fresh debate on the issue.

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Rooney might have put England ahead with an effort that was cleared off the line and captain John Terry hit the woodwork with a header, but Slovenia also had their chances. Careless mistakes gifted the Netherlands two goals in a drawn friendly last month and West Ham defender Matthew Upson gave possession away in a dangerous position. Striker Milivoje Novakovic rounded England keeper Robert Green but shot over with the goal at his mercy. Slovenia’s neat interplay often troubled England down their right flank and it took Lampard’s goal to steady home nerves. Aaron Lennon and Defoe, the two in-form Tottenham stars, came on after the break and interchanged passes for the second goal. Defoe, who has scored five international goals in the last three games, saw his opening and curled home a clever goal on 63 minutes. Lennon then charged down the right to set up Rooney, but he was again frustrated by a goal line clearance. Slovenia scored a deserved consolation goal as Zlatan Ljubijankic got in front of substitute Joleon Lescott to head home in the 85th minute. In other friendly action on Saturday, the Netherlands beat Japan 3-0 in Enschede with Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on target. Japan had the better of the first half, but van Persie set the Dutch on their way with a powerful shot in the 69th minute. Sneijder added a goal five minutes later with Huntelaar rounding off the scoring with four minutes left. The Dutch, who have already reached the World Cup finals, play Scotland in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday and may be without Sneijder who picked up an injury in the win.