England cruise to easy 3-0 victory over Estonia

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LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) England beat Estonia 3-0 in a one-sided Euro 2008 Group E qualifier at Wembley Stadium today to take another step towards next year's finals in Austria and Switzerland.

It was England's fifth successive 3-0 victory in the group and they moved level with leaders Croatia on 23 points, with the Croatians playing Israel later.

England dominated after going ahead in the 11th minute when Shaun Wright-Phillips fired an angled shot through goalkeeper Mart Poom's legs.

Wayne Rooney scored his first competitive goal for England since Euro 2004 when he made it 2-0 after 32 minutes and a minute later England were 3-0 up when Taavi Rahn scored an own goal with a powerful long-range header that bounced off the foot of a post and into his own net.

Although Estonia came more into the match in the second half, though they never remotely looked like avoiding their ninth defeat in 11 qualifying games.

The only concern for England on an otherwise satisfying afternoon was an injury to left back Ashley Cole, who was carried off on a stretcher with a heavily bandaged left leg early in the second half.

ACCURATE REFLECTION Apart from two isolated Estonian half-chances, England totally dominated the opening 45 minutes and although their second goal was fortunate, the halftime scoreline was an accurate reflection of their superiority.

Estonia threatened just twice, the first after two minutes when Joel Lindpere ran through the England defence and shot wide, and the second midway through the half when England dithered over clearing in front of Paul Robinson's goal.

For the rest of the time it was one-way traffic and it came as little surprise when Wright-Phillips opened the scoring with his third goal for England and his second in successive matches after intelligent build-up play and a final killer through-ball from Micah Richards.

With Gareth Barry, retaining his place ahead of the fit-again Frank Lampard and being named the official Man of the Match, and Steven Gerrard controlling the centre of midfield, England were rarely troubled.

Rooney, ended his competitive goal drought with a first-time left-foot shot after Owen left a Joe Cole cross for him. The ball also took a slight deflection off Raio Piiroja that left Poom well beaten.

Ashley Cole had a hand in the third goal a minute later when Rahn spectacularly headed his cross past Poom.

England created a series of other chances and Owen, on 40 goals and chasing Bobby Charlton's all-time record of 49, burst through four times, but each time was flagged offside.

In the closing stages, Gerrard, Joe Cole and Rooney all had chances to add to England's total but squandered them.

England travel to Russia for Wednesday's pivotal match of their campaign where another victory will seal their place in the finals.

Reuters RAR RS2157

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