John Terry kept England’s charge to the 2010 World Cup finals firmly on track when he snatched a dramatic 2-1 qualifying victory over Group Six rivals Ukraine at Wembley on Wednesday.
England have now won their first five qualifiers under new coach Fabio Capello, but it looked as though their run could end when Andriy Shevchenko struck a shock equaliser for Ukraine after 74 minutes. It was skipper Terry came to the rescue, sidefooting home from a couple of yards five minutes from time following a trademark David Beckham free kick. “We were disappointed to concede a goal late on but showed great character to come back and win the game, so there are some real positives,” Terry told ITV1. “It meant a lot (to score) and it has given us the win, so I’m delighted.There was some great fight and desire from the lads, we’re not settling for 1-1 and we went on to win the game. “We’re in a great position in the group and this has really set us up. They (Ukraine) have a game in hand but this puts us in a great position.” Gangly striker Peter Crouch earlier produced a stunning first half strike after being promoted to the starting line-up for the first time since Capello took charge 15 months ago. Crouch was given his chance following injuries to Emile Heskey, Carlton Cole and Darren Bent and he responded with his 15th goal in 33 appearances for his country. The Portsmouth marksman swivelled to fire right footed into the net after Terry directed a header back into the goalmouth following Frank Lampard’s corner. England were generally on top with Wayne Rooney, who was winning his 50th cap, a constant threat. Rooney was his usual lively self and Taras Mykhalyk was booked for bringing down the Manchester United star 20 yards out in a central position. Frank Lampard rolled the free-kick to Steven Gerrard, whose curling shot was only a couple of feet off target. England were starting to enjoy more of the possession with Gerrard floating into the centre and Rooney acting as cover on the left flank for the Liverpool skipper. Rooney was constantly involved in the action and one 50-yard pass picked out the unmarked Lennon. The striker raced into the middle in anticipation of a cross but could not keep down his volley which flew into the crowd. Keeper James, not enjoying one of his best games, made a meal of parrying a swerving shot from the edge of the box by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk but England were now generally in command. England looked full of confidence at the start of the second period and Ukraine made a big change after 55 minutes when former Chelsea striker Shevchenko replaced Andriy Voronin. Beckham, fresh from his record-breaking appearance against Slovakia, won his 110th cap when he replaced Lennon after 57 minutes. The former captain came close to quickly making his mark when he curled a 25 yard kick just too high after Rooney had been brought down by Mykhalyk. Substitute Shevchenko, who proved an expensive flop during his time in west London, then provided an emphatic close-range finish following a free kick to thrown Ukraine a late lifeline. And he had a freekick saved by James after Terry had put England back in charge. Belarus won 5-1 away to Kazakhstan and Croatia beat Andorra 2-0 in the night’s other group games. Dirk Kuyt scored twice as the Netherlands maintained their 100 percent record in qualifying with a comfortable 4-0 win over FYR Macedonia. The Oranje all but secured their place in South Africa as they stayed well clear at the top of Group Nine after five games thanks to first-half goals from Kuyt either side of Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s strike.
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Rafael van der Vaart added some gloss to the scoreline in the 88th minute. The Dutch were again in irrepressible form following Saturday’s 3-0 defeat of Scotland, and victories over Norway, Iceland and tonight’s opposition last year. The Scots bounced back from their weekend loss a to keep their dream alive with a crucial 2-1 win over Iceland at Hampden thanks to first international goals from Ross McCormack and Steven Fletcher. Indridi Sigurdsson had levelled for the visitors but George Burley’s men managed to claim the three points which allows them to put distance between them and their nearest rivals in second place in the pool. Just hours earlier it emerged that captain Barry Ferguson and goalkeeper Allan McGregor — who had made his competitive debut in Holland — were dropped from the team for a breach of discipline.